The Chernobyl accident: dispersal of clouds
The Chernobyl accident: dispersal of clouds

Rain is an irreversible and necessary thing. Alas, the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in 1986 made adjustments to this axiom too. Radioactive dust settled in a heavy layer on everything around – objects and equipment, buildings and structures, on roads, grass, trees. In a word, there was no point on the map, wherever the decay products of radionuclides left their deadly traces.

It was decided to actively influence the air masses to prevent precipitation in order to minimize their impact on the environment, and most importantly, to prevent them from getting into the waters of the Kiev Sea. If the radiation residues were washed away and fall into the Pripyat River in the course of rain, then, as a result, the waters of the Kiev Sea would be infected, and this would be another environmental disaster.

A specialized air meteorological detachment was urgently formed to combat the prevention of rainfall over the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. It included not only pilots, but also specialists from the Kiev Research Hydrometeorological Institute. They already had experience in the methodology of effective impact on thunderclouds. The whole complex of measures was carried out under the control of the Central Aerological Observatory.

Aircraft operated by experienced pilots have already taken part in such operations. In particular, two military bombers TU-16 and Cyclone-N took part in the dispersal of clouds during the 12th Moscow Olympics. Clear skies over the sports arena in Moscow in 1980, as well as in 1985 at the International Festival of Youth and Students were also their merit.

Although today there are skeptics who believe that the real purpose of these aircraft during the aftermath of the Chernobyl accident still remains unclear – some documents are classified as “secret”, but most still tend to the theory that iron cars in the air have completed his work is “excellent”.

The purpose and direct effect on the clouds of the aircraft were different.

AN-12 “Cyclone” was intended to deal with cumulonimbus clouds, and Tu-16 was used to influence clouds from distant horizons of the Chernobyl zone, it carried out “bombardments” from the stratosphere.

The pilots’ shift lasted from May 18 to the middle of the winter of 1986. The construction of the sarcophagus over the fallen nuclear reactor was going on all this time. As soon as the Shelter-1 object was put into operation, air flights to disperse the clouds over the Chernobyl nuclear power plant had stopped.

Sowing of Chernobyl clouds

As meteorologists say, cloud sowing is an active influence, by various means, on the phase development of cloud masses. By its principle, it is something similar to the work of a horse or tractor in the steppe or in the garden. This plane played the role of traction power only in Chernobyl in 1986. The principle of its work was as follows.

Special anti-rain powder mixtures were sprayed inside the cloud, or at a small distance from it. The main ingredient of this mixture was ordinary cement. It was sprayed from the usual compartment manually – with a shovel, sometimes it was dropped as much as 30 kg packs. About nine tons of cement mixtures were dumped over the entire period of the fight against clouds. Ice-forming substances were used in winter.

In addition, some pyrotechnic devices were used. A vertical smoke screen formed, about half a kilometer long, when firing a pyro cartridge charge. The joint work of scientists and pilots allowed to divert the centers of precipitation to distant approaches to less polluted Chernobyl territories.

The wind is a new enemy

A threat to a new environmental problem arose in the fall of 1986. It consisted of a large amount of radioactive dust, which spread over considerable distances due to the strong wind that arose. Radioactive dust was formed in the squat atmosphere as a result of convective pressure on the clouds using the Tu-16 Cyclone.

As a consequence, this led to a new problem – the formation of clouds containing a huge mass of radioactive dust. There was a problem of elimination of these clouds, in order to prevent their wide distribution due to strong gusts of wind.

The essence of this process was the introduction of cement powder into a dusty cloud, which artificially led to downward air flows. In such a situation, dry air penetrated into the cloud from the external environment, which as a result led to partial or complete dispersion of the cloud.

The elimination of clouds of radioactive dust was carried out for the first time like most measures to eliminate the consequences of the Chernobyl accident. Through trial and error, the process of mastering the methods of dealing with an earlier unknown enemy — radiation — went through. It was possible to do something right away and get the necessary result. Something, on the contrary, aggravated the consequences.

Urgent conclusions were drawn on emergency resuscitation of the situation in order to secure people in the shortest possible time and continue liquidation measures. That, for various reasons, could not be done correctly, was immediately classified. As the saying goes, “winners don’t make excuses”, because the result was ultimately achieved. It is a pity that the price of it is the lives of hundreds, thousands of people, mutilated fates, the ringed territory of the exclusion zone that was once one of the most fertile not only in Ukraine, but also in the world.

By the way, the experience of working on the active impact on the clouds was subsequently useful all over the world. The results obtained by pilots in the Chernobyl sky in 1986 became the foundation for a strategy to combat rainfall over large areas. In particular, this experience is still widely used today to ensure favorable weather conditions for large-scale events.

It is hoped that such formidable iron birds as the AN-12 Cyclone will be used by man exclusively for peaceful purposes in the future. If we make the right conclusions, then they will not need to fly into the sky, piercing the air currents filled with radioactive fuel. A peaceful atom must, after all, become peaceful, in a direct and unambiguous understanding and perception of this meaning.