The Chernobyl NPP – the truth will out: what Paton wrote to Shcherbitsky
The Chernobyl NPP – the truth will out: what Paton wrote to Shcherbitsky

Today, more than 35 years separate us from the Chernobyl disaster. It seemed that the further the tragic events of 1986 would recede into the past, the less interest they would arouse. However, the public’s attention to everything related to the Chernobyl NPP is not weakening. But is it possible to act differently if we feel the consequences of the catastrophe for hundreds of years? On the other hand, it would seem that the total veils that covered the ChNPP were removed long ago. And, nevertheless, there is a possibility to get acquainted with the originals of some once classified documents only today.

Many have probably heard about the role of the Academy of Sciences of Ukraine in eliminating the consequences of the Chernobyl accident. However, only few people know that initially, the Academy reacted negatively to the intentions to build the ChNPP near Kiev. Later, scientists strongly criticized the decision to expand the NPP explaining the reasons for this. But there was a surprising fact. Until recently, we have heard all these assurances mainly in words. But any document didn’t confirm the information. Now, thanks to the open archives of the ChNPP, documents have confirmed the fears of scientists.

Below are excerpts from the classified “Chernobyl folder”. In particular, there is a letter, written in 1981 by the President of the Academy of Sciences of the Ukrainian SSR Boris Paton. It was addressed to the first secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine V.V.Shcherbitsky. As you know, Academician Paton was the main opponent of the construction of the Chernobyl NPP.

Boris Paton’s secret letter

“Dear Vladimir Vasilievich! In the main directions of the socio-economic development of the USSR in the next five-year plan, there is much attention to the development of the country’s energy base. In particular, it’s about nuclear power. So, there is a plan in the 6-th five-year program to put into operation 25 million kW of nuclear power plants in the European part of the country. It will include 22 million kW only in the Ukrainian USSR.

Timely and high-quality fulfillment of this task poses a number of scientific and technical problems for physicists and power engineers. In 1980, the national economy of the republic used 30.5 cubic kilometers. It is almost 60% of the total annual flow of the Dnieper. This indicator is almost 3 times higher than the maximum permissible rate of water intake. In turn, this is the main reason for the intensive degradation of water resources in the Dnieper basin. However, the consumption of Dnieper water for industrial and domestic purposes will more than double for the period 1981-1990. Its deficit by 1990 will be more than 35 cubic kilometers.

The scale of nuclear power

Currently, over 40 thermal and nuclear power plants operate and are being built in the Dnieper basin. So, there is a need to finalize the issue of the sources coverage of the specified shortage of water resources. Moreover, the intensive growth of NPP capacities will lead to a sharp concentration of their direct waste in the biosphere. They should be neutralized and buried. First of all, we are talking about radionuclides, the source of which can be all cycles of the energy complex. For example, all representatives of plant and animal species will get a carbon impact for 6 thousand years.

The republic will annually generate about 3 million cubic meters of solid and liquid waste from NPPs. The existing practice of burying them at the ChNPP, especially in the Pripyat River valley, poses a threat to water consumers. First of all, the threat from the leakage of radioactive waste will affect the residents of Kiev and the Kiev region.

Consideration of measures for the integrated use of their thermal energy is important in NPP construction projects. While reaching the design capacity of 6 million kW, the ChNPP will discharge 250 million cubic meters of heated water annually when blowing through. More than 12 million kW of thermal waste will take place at the ChNPP annually. Its cooling systems will annually emit more than 180 million tons of water vapor into the atmosphere.

Environmental Assessment

By 1985, the above indicators for Ukraine will increase at least 4 times. This can lead to significant local and general overheating. It may also cause persistent density stratification and disruption of the oxygen regime by the reservoir over large areas. The urgency of the problem is growing, given that the Kursk and Smolensk NPPs have already been located in the upper reaches of the basin.

The consequences of a possible nuclear strike on the ChNPP will have a catastrophic effect on the national economic potential of the republic. Nowadays, this industry gets more than 70% of the waters exclusively of the Dnieper. The possible consequences of the defeat of the ChNPP will be huge destruction and radioactive contamination of Kiev.

According to the conclusion of geologists, the ChNPP is located in the area of the fault zones of the Ukrainian crystalline shield, overlain by sedimentary rocks. These rocks are highly permeable and include the main aquifers of the Dnieper artesian basin.

It is a well-known fact that the ChNPP liquid waste storage facility, consisting of 8 tanks, is located in the Pripyat River valley. Its design is only for 5-6 years. In the event of a possible leakage of radioactive waste from the storage facility, it immediately falls into an unprotected aquifer. It has a direct hydraulic connection with Pripyat and deeper groundwater horizons. All this poses a threat to water consumers located on the banks of the Kiev reservoir and the Dnieper below a dam. In particular, it threatens to the residents of Kiev. And this danger can have long-term harmful consequences as a result of a possible accident in a nuclear waste storage facility.

At present, filtration losses of water from the ChNPP reservoir make up about half of its volume per year. This warm, saline polluted water is “imposed” on natural groundwater. Their increased salinity will significantly worsen the agro and ameliorative condition of agricultural land in large areas. Therefore, it is necessary today to start studying the complex movements of polluted filtration water from the ChNPP reservoir. An environmental assessment of this phenomenon should also be given.” There were the first warnings of academician Boris Paton regarding the operation of the ChNPP.

Registration of radionuclides outside the sanitary protection zone

As you can see, the arguments are quite serious and the fears are more than justified. But we know how the authorities listened to them. The ChNPP is the first plant in the Ukrainian SSR, equipped with high-power reactors RBMK-1000. In 1980-1985, there were no equivalents of such a concentration of nuclear power in the upper tributary of one river. The Pripyat River is an inflow of the Dnieper. The water deficit here is more than 1 million square meters.

Since 1981, the radiation emissions from the ChNPP have been many times higher than the permissible ones. Since 1982, radionuclides have begun to be recorded outside the sanitary protection zone: in samples of the biosphere and bones of wild animals. The content of radionuclides was several times higher than the background in the areas nearby the ChNPP. Since 1983, cesium-137 and other radionuclides of stationary origin have been recorded in the alignment of the Kiev State District Power Plant.

In conclusion, there are several more warnings from Ukrainian scientists, which we managed to find out from the declassified archives.

From the materials of the meeting of the Presidium of the Academy of Sciences of the Ukrainian SSR, September 1986:

“… We are talking about temporary storage facilities for radioactive materials located in the 30-km Chernobyl Zone. In particular, there are fragments of various structures, machine parts and mechanisms, used clothing, and so on. Burial grounds, built in haste after the Chernobyl accident, do not meet the requirements for such structures. They pose a huge threat to the environment. If the we don’t take most urgent measures, radionuclides can get from the burial grounds into the soil and water. This will lead to another catastrophe. Huge territories will be contaminated with radiation.”

Comments are unnecessary here. How much time has passed since the Ukrainian scientists presented their warnings? Perhaps, a whole generation has grown up. And only now, the matter has been moved off the ground. There is a saying that smart people learn from other people’s mistakes. But we don’t even learn from our own.