The global man-made disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant was the logical result of the functioning of a communist totalitarian state. Its characteristic feature was the encouragement of the systematic neglect of environmental factors and risks during the implementation of gigantic technological projects.
“Showing-off” during the construction of large facilities, violation of the design and construction technology requirements, saving financial resources on safety equipment, supply of low-quality equipment, demanding incredible results from the work team that coincided with public holidays, are the prerequisites for the catastrophe that the Soviet government laid down.
Not only that, as it turned out later, specialists were aware of the presence of certain shortcomings in its operation (structural, design, etc.) even at the beginning of the construction of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in 1970.
Conscripted servicemen were involved in the work at the initial stage of enormous efforts aimed at minimizing the consequences of a colossal release of radioactive substances, military supplies and civilian employees were involved a little later. According to some reports, more than 800 thousand people passed through the site of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, many of whom suffered from psychological or physical problems (illness, alcoholism, mental disorders, suicidal tendencies, etc.).
The Soviet Union, trying to play down the consequences of the accident, hid reliable information, provided it incompletely, with shifted emphasis. The KGB authorities took all measures to prevent the spread of any rumors about the tragedy, fearing the spread of panic among the population.
There was a secret list that included data that “disclose the true causes of the accident at the fourth unit of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, explain the nature of the destruction and the amount of damage at the facility.” Only a few knew about its full content. Information about emissions from the explosion and the radiation situation was also ordered not to be disclosed, as well as how the disposal of radiation hazardous elements was carried out. Secret information was provided on the degree of exposure to station personnel, as well as people involved in the liquidation of the accident.
For the first time, citizens of the USSR learned about the accident from television screens in the evening of April 28, 1986. However, the authorities did not clearly indicate the scale of the disaster. On May 1, 1986, the Communist Party brought hundreds of thousands of people, including children, to the festive parade in Kiev, although the radiation level was ten times higher than the permissible level.
On the eve of mass celebrations, the wind from the side of Chernobyl blew directly towards Kiev. The radiation background in the city began to skyrocket. And only on May 2, 1986, the Soviet leadership decided to evacuate the population from the 30-km zone around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant – six days after the accident, and only on May 9 it was officially announced.
Chernobyl demonstrated the inconsistency of the technology used by the USSR, especially the organization of operation of a nuclear power plant that did not take into account the human factor.
The absence of a safety engineer at the time of the experiment, a triple violation of the operating instructions by the operator’s team, the desire to play with reactor safety demonstrate the poor quality of operation and, unfortunately, the insufficient professional and psychological training of the operators.
According to the degree of environmental consequences, the accident became the largest planetary catastrophe in the history of nuclear energy: the total radioactivity of 11 tons of radioactive substances released from the destroyed power unit into the environment amounted to tens of millions of curies, which is 300 times more than the emission from the nuclear bombing of the Japanese city of Hiroshima 6 August 1945.
A radioactive cloud from the accident passed over the European part of the USSR, most of Europe, the eastern part of the USA. About 60% of the radioactive substances settled in Belarus. Only radioactive cesium was contaminated 3/4 of the territory of Europe.
The Chernobyl disaster led to terrible consequences in Ukraine. More than 3 million people were affected, about 8% of its territory was exposed to direct radiation pollution. The category of population affected by the disaster was measured by horrific figures – about 2 million people, who are still under the supervision of healthcare institutions.
The State Sanitary Inspection of Ukraine approved a 10-kilometer zone of special radiation hazard, and a 30-kilometer zone received the status of the Chernobyl exclusion zone with a demarcation line, which is determined by specific levels of increased background radiation. Its perimeter reaches 223.5 km, of which 34 km pass along the border with Belarus.
The Chernobyl disaster significantly influenced sociopolitical changes in the USSR. The fact that the authorities hid the truth about the disaster and its consequences, the lack of information on security measures and disorganized assistance to the victims shook the belief in the value of the communist idea even among its most loyal supporters.
Ukrainian society began to rapidly lose confidence in the Soviet regime, as well as fear of it. The calming messages inside the country and the “jamming” of foreign radio broadcasts, the various rumors born in conditions of information uncertainty, reported by the country’s leaders or the KGB, created an atmosphere of mistrust.
The Soviet government demonstrated blatant irresponsibility for the fate of people who suffered as a result of the disaster. Moscow’s attempts to hide the truth about the Chernobyl tragedy and its consequences strengthened the opposition national-democratic movement in Ukraine. “Green” activists of the fight against environmental pollution joined its participants. According to some researchers, the Chernobyl disaster has become one of the reasons for the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Chernobyl accident – how the ecology of Kiev has suffered
Considerable attention was paid to environmental issues in Kiev, albeit with some delay in the first days after the accident. The question of determining the average radioactivity of leaves in Kiev was heard at a meeting of the Government Commission on May 23, and a survey of city ponds on June 2. Places of β-pollution were discovered on the territory of Kiev.
The Institute of Metal Physics of the Academy of Sciences of the Ukrainian SSR participated in decontamination and development of recommendations for timely decontamination: soil removal, leaf cleaning, filter replacement, etc. Specialists from the Institute of Colloid and Water Chemistry expressed their vision of methods for decontaminating water in the Bortnichesky aeration station system, given that the active mule accumulated radionuclides from water thousands and tens of thousands of times there. The question has repeatedly raised about the level of radioactivity of biomass in Kiev, since it reached a high level of radionuclide contamination in June-September 1986.
The participation of the collectives of the Academy of Sciences of the Ukrainian SSR in environmental decontamination has become one of the important directions of its contribution to overcoming the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster. In particular, they were instructed to intensify research on the selection and use of more effective chemical reagents and technical means of decontamination, methods for collecting radioactive products and waste, fixing and completely localizing or removing radioactive contaminants on the ground, roads, cars, equipment, houses and structures.
Along with military and civilians involved in work in the Chernobyl zone, employees of the Institute of Surface Chemistry, headed by Academician A.A. Chuiko, starting in May 1986, actively launched comprehensive scientific and practical work aimed at creating composite materials for the localization, decontamination and prevention of repeated radioactive contamination of the surfaces of the Chernobyl NPP facilities.
Along with experimental research and improvement of technological processes, the institute took part in solving the priority problems of studying and prejudice the formation and spread of radioactive dust in the Chernobyl zone and surrounding areas, decontamination of materials and limiting further pollution of buildings, structures, vehicles, communications, and so on. Polymer compositions designed and developed for dust suppression and decontamination of radioactive soil were developed and introduced in order to minimize the consequences of the accident.
Prevention of mass diseases in the area of liquidation of consequences of the Chernobyl accident
The sanitary and epidemiological control service occupies an important place in the cohort of medical services involved in maintaining the health of people who are directly responsible for the prevention of injuries, epidemics, mass poisoning, and infections.
Military doctors carried out a lot of work to prevent mass diseases among the contingent of liquidators involved in the consequences of the accident. Effective measures were taken to prevent pediculosis in the troops in order to prevent the occurrence and spread of parasitic typhus.
In addition, viral hepatitis, acute intestinal infections, including typhoid fever, and cholera, constituted a serious danger to the military and the liquidators of the accident. Moreover, the threat of their spread was quite real due to the deterioration of sanitary conditions in the area of deployment of troops.
In order to avoid this threat, military physicians, through sanitary supervision, took decisive measures to provide troops with good-quality drinking water and food, and carried out careful biological control of food and water supply workers.
Four sanitary-epidemiological teams and five radiometric laboratories were deployed in the Chernobyl region to carry out sanitary-hygienic and anti-epidemic measures in May 1986, together with which the main specialists in radiology, hygiene and epidemiology of the central medical institutions of the Ministry of Defense, the Military Medical Academy, medical schools, military districts.
Navy doctors participating in the liquidation of the consequences of radiation accidents in nuclear submarines were also involved. Certainly, such an accumulation of qualified medical workers could not, but gave their results – the mass spread of viruses and epidemics was avoided.