Putin is creating a potential nuclear disaster that few recognize
I usually like to include an appropriate number of snarky zingers in most of my stories. This is not a time for them. Putin's invasion of Ukraine is on the verge of creating a radioactive fallout disaster such as the world has never seen.
During my on-air reporter days, I had good contacts in Eastern Europe. It was during the time of the Soviet Union break-up, so a lot of good news stories came out of that area. One particular contact was a Swede who provided aid to the families of the firefighters and others who died in the aftermath of the Chernobyl explosion.
The explosion in the early morning hours of April 26, 1986 was in reactor no. 4 at the Lenin power plant at Chernobyl. Ten years later, I was one of only two Western reporters inside the 30km zone of exclusion around the power plant. In fact, we were inside the control room for the then-still-operating reactor no. 3, interviewing the senior operator who had been on duty the night of the explosion ten years earlier.
Sergey (not his real name for obvious reasons) confessed to us that the greatest ongoing potential danger of the Chernobyl disaster was considered a state secret in Ukraine. When reactor no. 4 exploded, the 100-ton top cover of the reactor, which Sergey referred to as the "lid," settled vertically alongside the remains of the reactor. It was, and still is, teetering on its edge.
In the event that it is disturbed by an earthquake or other outside force such as a Russian missile or artillery strike, it could tip over. If it did, 43 tons of highly radioactive dust would instantly be released into the atmosphere. None of the so-called protective sarcophagi built over the remains of reactor no. 4 would have the slightest success stopping the distribution of the poisonous dust.
If this radioactive fallout were released, it would re-contaminate the area out about 80 km from the plant. Even worse, winds high in the atmosphere would carry the radioactive dust thousands of miles. It was those types of winds that carried the fallout from the original explosion over Sweden, triggering the worldwide alarm when the Soviets tried to hide the news of the original explosion in '86.
In case readers might think time has eradicated the problem, those submicroscopic dust particles will remain radioactive for 25,000 years.
I was able to reach the now-retired Sergey via email this morning. He confirmed that the lid is still teetering on the edge, and Russian missiles or artillery (he can't tell which) are landing near the Chernobyl plant.
God help us if one of them is just a little too accurate!
Ed Sherdlu is a pseudonym.
Image: Nuclear explosion at the Nevada Test Site, 1957. Public domain.