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Chernobyl Reactor Restarted, Claimed Safe for Y2K 219

Posted by Roblimo
from the if-at-first-you-don't-succeed... dept.
Ydeologi writes "Usually when you hear 'Chernobyl' and 'Y2K' in the same sentence, it's because someone's using the infamous 1986 nuclear catastrophe as a metaphor to scale the predicted impact of Y2K. But here [MSNBC story], it's no metaphor. The Ukranians say they need money and they need electricity; this was their answer. Funny thing that Y2K concerns are preceding the more obvious ones -- say, uh, the reactor with the 'spotty' history."
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Chernobyl Reactor Restarted, Claimed Safe for Y2K

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  • All reactors suck, and the Ukranians just happened to suck the most. Actualy there operators suck the most, but the design of the reacrot shold have prevented diaster.

    The only reactors that come close to not sucking are CANDU rectors, the only 'brand' to be both deployed internationaly (hehe, sory about selling those to India) and without significant incedent.

  • by Foogle (35117)
    Are you for real? Chernobyl? Isn't the area around Chernobly supposed to be irradiated or something? Sounds like a goofy plan to me, but hey -- if they really need it.

    What doesn't make sense to me is why they would bother with Chernobly anyway. Would there be anything salvagable from the original working system? I would've thought that the whole thing might have fallen apart.

    -----------

    "You can't shake the Devil's hand and say you're only kidding."

  • by Double A (34222)
    As long as the moderator rods aren't made of graphite any more...

  • There were several reactors at Chernobyl. One exploded, and it took a second one with it. The reactor that they are restarting was neither of these; it was only down for 5 months.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I'm getting a bit bored with these Y2k problems everyone is talking about... We all know there's not a thing gonna happen besides the sporadic blackout. Any company that is delivering any kind of service to the public has taken all the precautions that are needed. And even if something fails while generating electricity or distributing water than the worst thing that is gonna happen that the service stops for some time. It's certainly not gonna blow or anything ridiculous like that. The only ppl interested in Y2K stories are the media because they still don't understand what it stands for but did hear someone say the words computer, technology and explosion. That's it, nothing to see here, certainly no .sig
  • Hey, if the Ukranians really need the reacor and they say it is safe, more power to them. they are the ones who will be irradiated if the reactor blows.
  • by Signal 11 (7608)
    Please Note: W2K is not suitable for use in nuclear reactors, life support systems, or other mission-critical applications. Manufacturer hereby disclaims any responsibility from meltdown, end of world situation, or the re-emergence of disco.
    --
  • I'd like to hear a better plan for getting electricity. Every other source of significant power is criticized for being environmentally unfriendly.

    Note: I included the adjective "significant" because everyone thinks solar power is wonderful, but it just can't produce.
  • by pest (24214)
    for some reason i feel an urge to dig a fall out shelter all of a sudden. but seriously, what are they thinking? most of the workers at it will probably develop cancer and/or die from full fledged radiation sickness. ahh well.
  • by volsung (378) <stan@mtrr.org> on Saturday November 27, 1999 @05:58AM (#1501440)
    I'm confused. How exactly is this possible? I thought that the meltdown of reactor 4 scattered radioactive material all over the area. I know they buldozed the topsoil over a huge area into concrete pits, but there's no way that they could have cleaned up everything in the area. Has the radiation dropped below "harmful" levels, or has the Ukraine decided to adopt the old Soviet view of "worker safety"?

    Hmm.. If nothing else, having a giant concrete enclosed reactor nearby would be bad for morale.

    M: Hey Pyotr, what's Ivan doing?

    P: Oh, he's just roasting some marshmallows on reactor 4.

  • Actually, it depends a lot on the prevailing winds...there's a lot of radioactive dust and such that was carried around afterwards...depending on where you are (I'm in Canada), it *could* be your problem...
  • How on earth did they clear away all the radiation?! I thought that area would deadly for many many years. I mean, the decay would take decades (centuries?) right? Is my feeble grasp of physics missing something here?

    Not only that, but I thought they pretty much just built walls of cement around the reactor. Did they tunnel their way back in and switich it on?

    Help me out here, if they wasn't on MSNBC, I'd swear it was some kind of prank (or at the very least, another devious plot for Bruce Perens to somehow get more Karma :)


    Finkployd
  • by friedo (112163) on Saturday November 27, 1999 @06:00AM (#1501444) Homepage
    All reactors suck, and the Ukranians just happened to suck the most. Actualy there operators suck the most, but the design of the reacrot shold have prevented diaster.

    The design of the reactor at Chernobyl did prevent disaster; the only reason it malfunctioned was because things went wrong while basic safety measures had been circumvented for testing purposes. The Chernobyl disaster was a result of human error and coincidence, not design. Further, nuclear power remains one of the safest and most efficient forms of power today (until we invent cold fusion, anyway)

  • *oops*

    Upon closer examination of the article, it's the #4 reactor that was encased in carbonite, they were talking about #3

    Finkployd
  • Yes, definitely. IIRC it's on their Northern border and the wind at the time was from the south, so most of the radiation wasy dumped on Belarus. Same place then, but not now.

    Greg
  • by / (33804) on Saturday November 27, 1999 @06:08AM (#1501448)
    [T]he Ukrainian government says it needs $1.2 billion from the West to finish construction of two new reactors to replace the output that will be lost by closing Chernobyl.

    There's nothing quite like nuclear suicide to raise the ante in international treaty negotiations. The Ukrainian economy has taken a harsh beating since the USSR fell apart, and they do need this electricity if they hope to get their industries cranking again.

    The fact that this action will precipitate an international crisis and help get the financial aid flowing again is just an added bonus.
  • Gee.. It's too bad that Russia isn't 5 days worth of time zones ahead of the east coast.

    If it were, when Chernobyl goes bang, we could turn off all OUR nuclear power plants in time for the fuel to cool off!
    (Reference: this comment [slashdot.org])

    ------
  • Any company that is delivering any kind of service to the public has taken all the precautions that are needed

    We hope. I mean, I don't predict anything dire (unless it's people's reaction to it or the govenrment's reaction to it), but why the sudden blind faith in companies?

    It seems the same people who view big companies as evil and technologicaly clueless, are the first in line to attempt to persuade others that they will or have fixed the y2k problem for us.

    Finkployd
  • Hey, we could trace radioactive material in our nature after that disaster... it is certainly a problem for more than just Ukraina...
  • by DanaL (66515) on Saturday November 27, 1999 @06:18AM (#1501453)
    I read a newspaper article yesterday about this. IIRC, the G7 nations had agreed to give the Ukraine about a billion dollars to build new reactors to replace Chernobyl, but haven't coughed up the dough yet. Since they need power, the government feels it neccessary to re-open the old plant.

    (I was surprised too, I thought the whole area was going to be un-inhabitable for the next few hundred years)

    Dana
  • (*after crawling back out from under my desk*)

    I thought major portions of Chernobyl were still radioactive, and would be for another 50 years or so? I seem to remember some sort of 'discovery channel' type program about it.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    The Ukranians have stated that their equipment is "far too obsolete to be affected by any computer problems."

    I don't know if something was lost (or gained) in the translation though.

    But it's true. Only us sophisticated countries have anything to fear from a complete meltdown of the electronic infrastructure. We're addicted to technology and the withdrawls, should it be taken away for even a minute, would be ugly.
  • Hey, if the Ukranians really need the reacor and they say it is safe, more power to them.

    groannnnnnnnn
  • The original Chernobyl accident was triggered by a careless 'experiment', it did not blow up all by itself. It is unlikely that such disregard of security measures will take place again at the same place.

    And by the way, Roblimo:

    $your_post =~ s/Ukranians/Ukrainians/g
  • Radioactive dust from chernobyl settled down in northern Scandinavia (a few thousand kilometers north of chernobyl within the polar circle). The effects of the disaster were measurable (and still are) in most of norther europe.

    Nuclear disasters like chernobyl affect large geographical areas and just the ukrainian government's assurance that everything is OK is not enough for me (I live in southern sweden). With the current economic situation in eastern europe, I fear that safety does not always come first as it should.

    Chernobyl is a relatively old plant. The only reason it is still used is because there is not enough money to replace it. All this has disaster written all over it. Its only a matter of time before one of the eastern european plants meets with an accident.
  • Yeah well i saw an aritcle on "Ukrainian Industry" about three years ago??? and it seems that they are not i need of electricity like they are in need of cleaner factories. They do not even put the basic scrubbing systems on their plants that have black smoke bellowing out of them 24 hours a day. Many Ukrainian cities have not seen light in years, there are large numbers of cancer deaths and everything is polluted. Their industries are cranking, just not with clean power. Maybe we as a world we should spend more time worrying about what comes out of the factories besides packaged goods. And why should we as a nation give them aid? They screwed up, they can fix it. America gives out enough money - it would be nice to see the thousands of dollars a year i give to my government do something constructive....

    -DoH
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 27, 1999 @06:39AM (#1501464)
    Two of the Chernobyl reactors have been operating for many years, restarted shortly after the accident. The one that is being restarted now has been down for a normal outage since February. It's Unit 4 that is fux0red and enclosed in the "sarcophagus".
  • by RNG (35225) on Saturday November 27, 1999 @06:40AM (#1501465) Homepage
    This kind of stuff is the most dangerous legacy from the cold war. Even in the west, where we at least have enough money to handle this stuff with proper security, the long term cleanup/deposit of the large amounts of highly radioactive is still an unsolved problem. We don't really know what do with it.

    The situation in some the former eastern block, especially in the former USSR, however is much worse. These governments are cronically cash starved with some countries on the brink of insolvency. Pensions and salraies are often not being paid (or payed several weeks/months too late) and the old communist order has collapsed with (in some regions) not much of anything new to replace it. It is this abscence of government which makes the large stockpiles of nuclear fuel, weapons and waste very dangerous. Some/Much of the Russian nuclear (submarine) fleet is rotting in their harbors because there's no money/parts for repairs. Nuclear reactors (any many other vital parts of the infrastructure) don't get proper servicing/repairs. With authority breaking down to such a degree that even high caliber weapons are for sale by corrupt army officials, the question of strongly contaminated or even wapons grade materals is a serious one.

    Even if we quit using nuclear power anytime soon (would be nice but don't hold your breath) we'll be stuck with large amounts of highly radioactive stuff for the next few thousand years ...

  • by Hobbex (41473) on Saturday November 27, 1999 @06:43AM (#1501467)

    I was six when the Chernobyl accident happened, so my memories, and my insight, into the time are rather limited. I do remember how scared my parents were however, I do remember hardly being allowed to play outside that whole summer, and I do remember that we only got powdered milk for about six months.

    Sometimes I wonder about how much time the downfall in this area took off my life, but then I come to and look at the smoke rising from the highway just a few hundred meters from my house, and wonder how much that is taking off even as we speak.

    Nuclear Power as it stands is a dirty, nasty, dangerous business. We are playing with forces which we know can destroy us all, we are creating toxins and wastes that we hardly know how to deal with, and we are putting trust in that the next generations will solve our problems for us. However, it is not alone. POWER is a dirty bussiness. As much as nuclear power is a killer, so are all the other ways we have today. Anyone here going to tell me that greenhouse effect is not real? or that it isn't a bigger deal to our children than having to deal with nuclear waste? or that hydro-electric damns aren't gigantic destruction of some of our last real ecological systems?

    The Ukranians need power. For them to have a chance at rebuilding their economy, they will need all the power they can get, and we cannot expect them to pay the price for the global bad conscience about what we are ruthlessly doing power our way of life. If we want that reactor shut down, we are going to have to give them an option, and we obviously aren't.

    Until then, I guess we'll just have to stack up on iodine pills and hope that the wind is going the other way next time...


    -
    We cannot reason ourselves out of our basic irrationality. All we can do is learn the art of being irrational in a reasonable way.
  • I hope it safe, and I suppose it is. After all, the 1986 accident that spewed radation all over europe was caused by operator error. Hopefully they've learned, but it seems that they're being quite arrogant about it. Hold your breath europe...when we US people are partying New Year's Eve, you'll be in your radation bunkers.
  • by moonboy (2512)
    Me too. It seems levels would still be too high, even now. I thought there had to be a period of at least 25 years before levels were safe enough. Guess I'm wrong...or am I?

    ----------------

    "Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds." - Albert Einstein
  • by / (33804)
    But if you're already being increadibly reckless with your environment, what is the additional harm in a little nuclear fallout, should it come to that? (Nevermind that the stuff doesn't exactly respect borders or even continents.)
  • by Paolo (87425)
    I just saw a program on PBS last week on microbiology. Scientists from Russia and the Ukraine went in to take soil samples from the Chernobyl area in order to asses the genetic mutations of bacteria which live there. One needs a security pass to enter the 15 or so mile radius around the city.

    The radiation levels are still dangerous to the northwest of the exploded reactor, as that was where the winds blew the bulk of the sediments. It seems to me that it is very dangerous still, in terms of personal safety.

    It is utterly amazing to me that the article focused on Y2K issues, not health issues. Eastern Europe is considered one of the regions that expects to be hit hardest by date rollover issues, because of the lack of government spending on investigation and fixing of mechanical and computer based operations. Chernobyl reactor #3 is not safe to operate, in my book, if protective suits, security clearance, and geiger counters are required to get near the facility.
  • Usually, I'm one to let others relax in the safety of their own illusions, but this time I'm gonna let one slide.

    I used to work for a software company that does CAD for 911 systems (several clients here in the U.S., your town might even be one of 'em) Anyhoo, the point is : the y2k preperation efforts were way behind last time I checked (which was last July, I confess)

    Your faith that the companies will take care of everything is kinda quaint, like trusting the government to watch out for your own personal best interests

    Consider that the last 3 versions of AIX were supposedly y2k compliant... they were doing "that old one isn't ready for y2k, but this one is" and they did it a few times... then consider that 911 depends on the functionality of AIX on several cities (some of these are major metropolitan areas)

    it's gonna be an interesting evening for sure... I don't expect it to be as bad as some suggest, but it's not gonna be smooth either.

    I'll be doing tech support at an ISP... I wanna watch the sparks fly from the front row :o)

  • We have a Chernobyl type nuclear plant with 6 reactors (4 of them exactly the same as those in Chernobyl) in my country . The European Union wants us to stop those reactors, because of "safety concerns". And when we stop them, they say they will sell us electricity. Obviously the reators are working at full power :-) Oh yeah, my country is Bulgaria by the way.
  • I agree...

    The area around the reactor that had the meltdown can't possibly be ok to be in on a regular basis.

    I think the problem maybe be that if they don't start that reactor people in the cities (and other places where the houses doesn't have stoves (or similar) will freeze to death... And therefore they think it's worth it...

  • I remember reading a few years ago (in National Geographic magazine) that there was fish again in the lagunas of the Bikini atol. They were amazed that there would be life there so short after the nuclear experiments. And those were no core meltdowns but full fledged atimic bombs dropped on the island. So I am not surprised that Chernobyl is clean -- al the radioactive dust was blown away by winds and since the reactor was encased in concrete there is no more emission. Also, I would think that natural emissions from decay are much much less than those during a normal nuclear reaction Note: the fish in the Bikini atol were normal, i.e. no 4 mouths, human ears or anything of the sort.
  • Old USSR reactors mostly rely on good old-fashioned analog techonoly, so Y2K should not be a big issue. Besides, while Soviet reactors may not be as safe as their western counterpars, they are by no means unsafe. After all, what happened in 1986, happened because some engineers thought it might be a good idea to turn off safety systems an do some experiments. There have been nuclear acidents in the US too..
  • by Skinka (15767)
    I've been wondering that same thing. The city of Chernobyl is still still so polluted that living there is not possible, allthough short-term exposure is quite harmless. I guess they just cleande the plant so well that operation is possible. Chernobyl has been online for a long time, as the article states it was shut only fife months ago for some repairs. Now that the winter is comming, more electricity is needed to keep up with the demand.
  • We have to balance safety and need here. Frankly, I don't trust the Ukranians to do that impartially. During the cold war, Wester Culture made the Russians look like stupid, dirty fools. I dunno on what I base this, but I think they are. I do not trust them with the welfare of Eastern Europe. The plant has enough problems, If they need power then shut down some of their polluting industrial factories, more power for everyone else. They can also buy power, the US buys power from canada on a daily basis, and at other times, we sell it to them, a country's power grid is not 'closed.' I think they're making excuses just so they have another chance to irridiate Europe. My two cents.
  • I don't think they will be hit as hard as you think by Y2K, because their equipment is so low tech that usually it has no microchips that have date problems. Most factories probably use 60's technology which is Y2K bug free by default i.e. no computers at all. Sometimes low-tech is a good thing then.
    I always wondered how would the water supply for example stop on Jan 1,00. What computer might possibly be controlling the water in the pipes and why would it depend on the date?
  • Well, thats _is_ what meltdowns do (reference the Hanoi Jane Fonda movie "The China Syndrome"). But not Chernobyl. It didn't melt down, it blew up.
  • by jpatokal (96361) on Saturday November 27, 1999 @07:25AM (#1501486) Homepage
    I'm probably going to get roundly flamed for posting these heretical viewpoints, but as I happen to be serious, this isn't flamebait. =P

    Nuclear Power as it stands is a dirty, nasty, dangerous business. We are playing with forces which we know can destroy us all, we are creating toxins and wastes that we hardly know how to deal with, and we are putting trust in that the next generations will solve our problems for us.

    Nuclear power is considerably less dirty, nasty and dangerous than most practical alternatives today. A catastrophic failure of a nuclear power plant (and Chernobyl was about as bad as it can get) might kill a few dozen people, but perfectly normal operation of a coal or oil burning power plant kills a lot more people by releasing all sorts of nasty chemicals into the atmosphere, which then cause lung cancer and similar diseases. (I recall seeing a figure of 28,000 deaths per year quoted, but I can't find a reference right not. Oh well.) Then you have coal mine accidents, general pollution, etc. "Forces that can destroy us all" is ludicrous hyperbole, even a loaf of bread is radioactive and it contains those same forces.

    Anyone here going to tell me that greenhouse effect is not real?

    I will tell you that it is too early to tell. Global temperatures are rising, but not in the way it should be according to the standard global warming thoery. The reason for it may well be unrelated, as the Earth's average temperature goes up and down anyway. Less than 20 years ago there was widespread fear of a new Ice Age, ie. global cooling, based on exactly the same data.

    Just the same, if the global warming theory is correct, the problem is fossil fuels. Nuclear power plants produce next to no greenhouse gases. Nuclear power is not ideal, but solar and wind power just aren't going to cut it, now or quite possibly ever, for places like Finland.

    And a few links:

    Getting back on topic, most Russian nuclear reactors are sufficiently primitive in design that they have very little software to even worry about. Russian reactors have far worse problems than Y2K, despite everything I said above I don't exactly like living near both Sosnovyi Bor and Ignalina...

    Cheers,
    -j.


  • Actually this was my point. Nuclear power is bad, everything else is at least as bad.

    -
    We cannot reason ourselves out of our basic irrationality. All we can do is learn the art of being irrational in a reasonable way.
  • That's a pretty good point. Nuclear fission -- if safely administered -- is a lot cleaner than coal or oil.

    The problem seems to be that most nuclear installations are hamstrung by typical government silliness. Its one thing to have gaft, incompetence and corner-cutting and the local Ministry of Transport/Department of Motor Vehicles. Its quite another to do it at a nuclear plant.

    Any Canadians here remember the "issues" with the Pickering facility in Southern Ontario:

    • The deuterium being flushed into Lake Ontario
    • the lead blanket that was left in the core area that melted and damaged the safety systems
    • The rather high instance of substance abuse (namely, the heroin-use needles in the garbage cans in the washrooms)
    This sort of stuff scares me. How far off is Homer Simpson's work environment from reality? How do people in charge of these places sleep at night?

    I'm all for nuclear power if its managed well. I believe France has a very well administered nuclear energy program -- there was an article in National Geographic a few years back that compared the American and French systems (and didn't do the Americans many complements)

  • Well, there's Hydroelectricity...

    Its not great (there's the issue of flooding an ecosystem and disrupting water flow along the rest of a river's course) buts its a damn sight better than burning hydrocarbons. And I feel a lot safer living near the Sir Adam Beck hydro plants in Niagara than I did when I was living near the Pickering nuclear plant (Ontario, Canada).

    For the record, I'd never live near a coal/oil plant. I'd never live off of a major highway or near a steel smelter for the same reason

    Its a pity geothermal solar and wind-turbine aren't practical alternatives for most of the inhabited world. And not every area has access to an exploitable river for hydro (despite the ecological problems)

    Coal/oil and nuclear are about the only power sources that can be deployed regardless of geography. I hope I'm around when that changes

  • The city of Chernobyl is still still so polluted that living there is not possible, allthough short-term exposure is quite harmless.

    A recent ducumentary puts the population of Pripyat (site of the plant) at 15,000 workers, plus a small number of people who returned despite the radioactivity of the area. (The other side: "Today Pripyat is a radioactive ghost town that will be abandoned for thousands of years." - Ukrainian Review no. 94, Spring 1996)

    Hyperbole, perhaps? Not that I'm trying to make light of the fact that thousands have died as a direct result of the fallout from the meltdown. Most of the *known* fatalities were in the Soviet government's cleanup crew. As of three years ago, estimates were that eight to ten thousand liquidators had died from the radiation dose they received.

    Your point, unresearched, seems a touch inaccurate. The liquidators (cleanup crew) were there for a short time (less than a year) and 10 years later, 1 in 60 of them were dead. Makes me feel slightly sympathetic for the semi-permanent residents. (Living there is possible, obviously, but not a very good idea)

    Also, a BBC article [bbc.co.uk] about the first baby being born in the area since the accident.

    ------
  • Well, consider that Cernobyl's meltdown could have been prevented, were it not for the fact that Chernobyl's safety mechanisms and procedures made most other nuclear reactor workers cringe even then. If they've improved since then, which I'm sure they have (even the most scatterbrained comittee of politicians, pointy-haired bosses, and Windows zealots couldn't possibly be that stupid), then more power to the Ukranians (no pun intended).

    All the same, I think I'll wait a few years to see how this thing runs before I go to the Ukraine...
  • The stupidity of people will never cease to amaze me. Not the stupidity of putting back up a nuclear reactor, but the stupidity of the tards trying to stop it for some reason or another.

    HELLO!!!! We are running ourselves into the ground with Fossil fuels (no pun intended) and there won't be any left, but NOOOO! We cant have nuclear power because that might reck the environment! Yeah, makes sense to me.

    People are idiots. I hate them.

  • Noop, not true. The release of greenhouse gasses because of the massive decomposition of biomass under the damn is equal to that of a coal burning plant producing as much power.

    If we were more rational about the dangers with nuclear power (no in denial like when the plants were first built, but not paranoia like today) it could be enough to tide us over until we get working fusion power.


    -
    We cannot reason ourselves out of our basic irrationality. All we can do is learn the art of being irrational in a reasonable way.
  • Wow! is there a moderator comment: 'Head in the sand'?

    I have to admit that I have no idea what is going to happen next year, but for some of us it might not be pretty. You may be bored with Y2K, but it will be shown to be fact that we have immersed ourselves in shoddy technology. Out love afair with the 'New' and 'advanced' has created a world of computer dependcies that should scare you, because when you do not have food supplies (becasue you can't roll trucks), when you don't have heat (because the meters can't meter) and when you don't have water (becasue a chemical spill has detroyed your local water supply, you have a big problem.

    Now you are saying, hey we have tornadoes,earthquakes, hurricanes and sure a couple people die but we always seem have the resources. Well, spread that kind of disaster to a global situation and there are no resources except your neighbors (I hope y'all get along) and you might get a glimmer of what this problem could be.

    RANT
    We have no one to blame except the technologists and business opportunists. It is apparent that our love of technology is taking us down a road that could be morally and spritually baren leaving us in a stirile, poluted, empty world ..

    /RANT
  • Read this analysis and then tell me it is "not our problem".

    http://www.rain.org/~openmind/chernob3.htm
  • The design of the reactor at Chernobyl did prevent disaster; the only reason it malfunctioned was because things went wrong while basic safety measures had been circumvented for testing purposes. The Chernobyl disaster was a result of human error and coincidence, not design. Further, nuclear power remains one of the safest and most efficient forms of power today (until we invent cold fusion, anyway)

    Nope. The Chernobyl reactor design was pretty bad. No containment building as a start.

    Human error did start off the accident, but a horrible reactor layout let it get out of hand.

    Of course whats really sad is that no one will fund advanced reactor design. Some existing (though untested at large scale) designs are physically incapable of Chernobyl-like accidents.

    Nuclear is the one technology capable of providing us with practically unlimited amounts of clean, safe evergy. Yet the public is unwilling to expend even a little energy to study it's real capabilities and dangers. The vast majority are happy just to label anything and everything with the world "nuclear" in it's title as automatically mysterious and evil.

    I still wonder what would happen if the public were made aware of the radioactive substances that are the core of almost every smoke detector on the planet. Jesus, there would probably be a national "burn your smoke detectors" campaign.

  • by RelliK (4466) on Saturday November 27, 1999 @08:33AM (#1501502)
    This is a general response to those who are wondering what's happening.
    Only the reactor 4 (the one that blew up) was shut down. Reactors 1 - 3 never stopped working.
    Nobody has lived in Chernobyl since the accident because the radiation levels are too high. Nevertheless the plant was never shut down.
  • Actually, this is more of a guilt maneuver. It's something like "look what you're making us do by delaying the funds!"

    --

  • They do not even put the basic scrubbing systems on their plants that have black smoke bellowing out of them 24 hours a day.

    How do you think these scrubbers work? Most of them are electrostatic...ie: they need large amounts of ELECTRICITY...exactly what their nuclear plants are there to produce.

    Maybe we as a world we should spend more time worrying about what comes out of the factories besides packaged goods.

    Then we need a clean energy source. And the only one avalable is nuclear.

    And why should we as a nation give them aid? They screwed up, they can fix it.

    This is just sad.

  • by vitaflo (20507) on Saturday November 27, 1999 @08:56AM (#1501506) Homepage
    This sort of stuff scares me. How far off is Homer Simpson's work environment from reality? How do people in charge of these places sleep at night?

    I grew up about 20 minutes from 3 nuclear reactors in Wisconsin, and also did a research paper about nuclear power in college where I got to have a tour of two reactors. Lets just say this, if all of what I saw and learned is true for all reactors, then I'm all for nuclear power.

    First of all, if you've never been inside a nuclear plant, it's truly mind boggling. The amount of engineering that goes into a plant would make any geek scream with delight. I've never seen anything more sophisticated.

    With that said, there are TONS of saftey precautions these places take. They have a main control room that is operated 24/7 by many people montitoring everything. If you think that the people in there are like Homer Simpson, you're dead wrong. They don't hire bums off the street. These people go through rigorous training. In fact, training happens as long as their there. They have a second "mock" control room, identical to the real one where they go through simulations of events, and the employees are graded on thier performance. There's obviously a first test before you even get to step foot in a control room, but even after that, I beleive it's every 3 months, they have to go through training again, and must pass.

    Even with that there are many fail safes built into the reactor, and you have to really be an idiot to cause a meltdown. Much of what I was told there and read about what happened at Chyrnobyl and Three Mile Island, was just that, human error, and people not reacting to simple warning signs. Those tragedies could have been avoided.

    I also live an hour away from a coal burning plant, and let me tell you, that is one of the dirtiest and nastiest things I have seen. I'm not saying that Nuclear Power doesn't have it's side effects (radioactive waste), but coal plants use so much fuel for so little energy and produce so much crap. Whereas, if you filled up a nuclear reacter, you basically could just feed off that fuel for a decade before you'd have used it all up. Nobody that lives around the reactors where I live thinks twice about it. They're quiet, and clean. The only biproduct is hot water, the waste, and electricity.

    And the way I see it there are many solutions for the waste. One that has been talked about extensively is the Yucca Mountains, which is in the southwest US. I believe the Trinity test was done in this area (correct me if I'm wrong). This is the main proposed site for long term disposal of all nuclear waste in the US, but it is under much debate (mainly by people who don't know about nuclear energy). If there was a good place to store the waste, Yucca Moutain is it, IMHO. Other ideas are off shore containment facilities at the bottom of the ocean, which could be a good idea, since radioactive particles don't penetrate through water very well (if at all). However, the notion of "polluting our oceans with radioactivity" wouldn't get past the public (even if it is a false claim). There are other alternatives, like space, which are less feasable, but the reality is that there are safe places for this stuff. The waste now is held in caskets. I got to see one of them with waste in it. Perfectly safe. I believe they are tested to take a 100 ft drop and not crack. Basically, to make a long story short, in the right hands Nuclear Energy is VERY safe and reliable. Don't let popular culture tell you otherwise.
  • As mentioned by others, this isn't what happened to Chernobyl.

    It's also extremely unlikely to happen anywhere else. Very likely a core moving in such manner would hit some volitile substance (like water), vaporize it and blow itself up in the process. Or, it would burn up enough of it's U235 such that it would shut itself down.

    Finally, the CANDU (canadu?) reactors run on natural uranium. Natural uranium won't react without a moderator. So as soon as the fuel moves out of the reactor vessel it'll put itself out.

    Interestingly, natural nuclear reactions in the ground are not unheard of. There is a uranium mine in Africa which has a lower U-235 content then other mines. It has been postulated that at some point in the distant past it's uranium underwent a spontanious chain reaction and burned off part of its U-235.
  • Very well said.

    I would only add that coal plants release huge amounts of radioactive contaminants along with their other chemical biproducts.

    And in terms of waste, this is why we should be working on breeder reactors.
  • Not only did they plow topsoil over it, they also built a makeshift cover over the whole thing that was dubbed the "sarcophagus" to keep thousands (millions?) of tons of radioactive dust from being blown everywhere. Anyone remember the half-life of uranium? I don't offhand, but I remember that it is a hell of a long time. There are exposed core rods in there as well. I can't imagine that it would be safe to even work in the vicinity. I suppose they don't really give much of a damn either. People get cold and hungry enough, they will work in apalling conditions just to survive.
  • Also take into account that you have to house the depleated uranium.

    Depleated uranium has nothing to do with nuclear power reactors. DU is uranium which has had it's U235 extracted for use in atomic bombs (or nuclear sub reactors). Since there is a glut of extracted U235 on the planet at the moment, no one is refining it anymore.

    Depleted uranium is also not terribly radioactive. It is used for tank-piercing shells and armor, for instance. Housing it is not a problem. It is no more dangerous then any other heavy metal.

    I suspect the term you are looking for is "Spent fuel."

  • Assuming that you think nuclear power is a good idea...

    Assuming that the Former Soviet Countries have reliable industry techniques to control this stuff...

    Assuming that the residual radiation in the area has subsided...

    This is a very bad idea.

    The reactors that melted down are not safe. They were covered with a "sarcophagus" of just plain concrete. Even last year, they were talking about the leaks from this thing getting so bad that they had to go in and repair it, but didn't have the $$.

    When the reactors melted, they sacrificed thousands of soldiers that went in to put this concrete over the reactor. They didn't even give them protective equipment. All they gave them was some "anti-radiation" pills that prevented them from getting violently ill.

    It's still impossible to get into the area. The residual radiation is too much, even if you don't take into account that it's leaking.

    The facilities themselves are in a poor state. Iron beams that form the infrastructure of the facilities are weakened because of the extreme temperatures. Most of the switches on the control panels are melted together. This isn't like TMI, where there was an incidental release of radiation. Theis was a melt-down of critical proportions, just like a nuclear bomb went off.

    The radiation from Chernobyl wasn't even reported by the Soviets. They wouldn't have said anything to the West. The only reason that we knew about this is that Finland detected the radioactive cloud over half a continent away (Geography lesson--the Ukraine is located on the Black Sea, way down south, and Finland is on the Arctic Circle). So, this radiation was strong enough to drift all the way north across eastern Europe and still be detected.

    So, how do you pull off restarting the reactors?

    1) Rebuilt all the facilities from scratch.

    2) Get a team of *very* protected specialists to start up the equipment.

    3) Network the reactors with a remote control station somewhere in Kiev.

    4) Pray like hell--Ukrainians are Catholic.

    Supposedly, the thing is Y2K safe, but who cares? I mean, this is such American thinking. Who cares about Y2K when there's Y-now.

  • ...the long term cleanup/deposit of the large amounts of highly radioactive is still an unsolved problem. We don't really know what do with it.

    Bullshit. Even without investing in breeder technology (which is already developed, but hasn't been proven on a large scale), nuclear waste it not terribly hard to get rid of. It has this vast advantage in that it's so dense it's easy to move and stash places. (As opposed to waste from coal and oil plants, which store their waste in the lungs of every living creature on the planet.)

    Probably the best final disposal method is to shoot the waste (in metal containers) into the mud which covers the seafloor un the middle of the pacific. The mud is quite deap and has a very small particle size (to help contain the waste). Plus, of course, water is very good at blocking radiation.

    Doing such a thing is terribly stupid, though. This "waste" is in fact a highly valuable fuel source in and of itself. We shouldn't be arguing about how to get rid of it. We should be developing ways the USE it.

  • There are no perfect energy sources out there, each one has its drawbacks. Fossil fuels are pollutive, and emit gases that destroy the ozone. They are also unrenewable (at least until humanity destroys itself and in a few million years we become the fuel). Nuclear power has had safety issues (although there have been numerous safety advances) but it is not as efficient as was once hoped. Uranium costs a bundle. I think that in the coming century, we need to examine other alternative methods of securing a renewable, realitively safe, non-polluting source of energy. Any ideas?
  • Okay, imagine you've just walked into a walk-in closet and closed the door. Bet you wish you had a light in that closet, right? Maybe you do -- maybe you have a really bright, 150-watt halogen lamp. Still see a lot of impenetrable shadows, do you? Suppose you put, oh, I don't know, a thick cloud of water vapour between your light source and the floor of the closet. Can you still distinguish your shoes down there?

    Okay, now walk outside, on the cloudiest day of the year, and look around you. How many lights, placed where, and of what wattage, would you need to employ to achieve this level of illumination without your insignificant solar power???

    Thousands of persons still use the sun to illuminate almost every significant activity, to dry their clothes, to warm themselves. Consider, too, the work accomplished by the sun in creating wind, harnessed by green plants to provide practically all our food, etc.

    Solar power is far greater than your imagination can conceive -- it is merely our so-far limited ability to harness even a tiny fraction of this power which leaves us wanting more energy. It isn't the sun which "can't produce!"

  • My, my. What do you know? For years after it was built the engineers WERE Russian. Oh, by the way I am not worried at all. Also, European standard requires 16 mm thick lead (.66 inch) casing around the reactors. In ours, they installed 45 mm. That's a lot of lead.
  • Well, for years the soviet government has been bussing workers into the reactor to work and then out again at the end of the day. The area around Chernobyl has been evacuated since the meltdown, and is now inhabited only by a group of scientists that have basically cashed in their health for the possibility of studying the effects of widespread radiation exposure in an ecosystem. I would imagine that they are continuing the same type of deal. There was a very good documentary on TV some years back, probably on TLC on Chernobyl, concerning the scientists that work in the area observing the ecosystem and checking the failed reactor for safety hazards. I wish I could remember the name- wonder if anyone else does. Also, at the time there was a lo of worry because the sarcophagus over reactor 4 was starting to weather poorly, it had been thrown up pretty fast and the concrete was poor quality. Has there been any overhaul or repair performed on it? It seems like it would constitute a serious problem and danger by now.
  • And about a week later, the background radiation count in the U.S. spiked, to levels not seen since the late 1950's. It wasn't Chernobyl, it was the DOE "secretly" cracking open two bad missle silos and a melted reactor, hoping that the newspaper headlines about fallout arriving from Chernobyl would cover their actions.

    That must have been the same week that aliens abducted the President of the United States and the CIA stole your tin foil hat [tripod.com].

  • Huge income potential for the right person!

    Seriously, folks... I come by my Y2K tremors honestly.. I've worked in the technological headquarters of rather a large number of brokerages and banks. With these eyes I have observed such stupidity and ignorance as would seem incredible to a trusting soul such as yourself.

    Then again, you don't know me -- so, did you read the recent story about how NASA lost the probe orbiting Mars? Seems some bright coder failed to translate correctly from metric to feet in calculating the orbit, and it burned up because it entered the atmosphere (at about 60 miles instead of 150). Of course, you have to go to BBC for the horrendous details... the authorities and their media don't want you to realize how bone-headed even NASA's coders -- arguably brighter and more motivated than most -- can be.

    If you're living in some cozy suburban home with a fireplace and you have plenty of water and fuel stockpiled, or you're down south where the temperature probably won't drop much below 45 degrees (F) the week after the New Year, you're probably safe enough. But those of us in NYC and other environments highly dependent on deeply interconnected technology have plenty of reason to fear. Just a couple of months ago, a sudden, completely unexpected rainstorm that fell only on Manhattan in the early morning knocked out the subways. So the buses and cabs were also effectively out of service since so many crowded onto them. If you were on your way to the hospital that morning, or desperately needed to get to the airport, you had a tiny taste of what COULD happen here the week of Jan. 1st.

    When was the last time you heard of a predicted, expected power-outage??? They still happen in the greater NY metropolitan area -- even just last summer, blocks in uptown Manhattan were completely cut off for more than 24 hours, just because of high demand during a predicted heat wave!

    The real danger is that relatively tiny technical failures can quickly cascade into life-threatening consequences in apparently unrelated systems. Remember the implications of complexity theory (one good reason to read the notes prefacing chapters of Jurassic Park, regardless of how you felt about the movie).

  • Yeah well i saw an aritcle on "Ukrainian Industry" about three years ago??? and it seems that they are not i need of electricity like they are in need of cleaner factories. They do not even put the basic scrubbing systems on their plants that have black smoke bellowing out of them 24 hours a day.

    And does mr. smartass know what do those "factories" produce? Those over-polluting "factories" are either steel plants or, and mostly -- surprise -- power plants. Coal-burning ones because this is what Ukraine has.

  • Gotta agree with you -- a couple of times I've provided documentation for moving facilities or contingency planning, and I can tell you that when a commercial institution decides to move just one major software system from one clump of hardware to another, it takes almost a year of planning and thousands of man-hours to plan the move, test the changes, and actually accomplish the move. Such moves are always carried out over a weekend, usually a holiday (3-day) weekend, to allow for backup and recovery as necessary.

    Y2K is equivalent to simultaneous facilities transfers for thousands of critical systems all over the world. To believe there will be no disaster is to have the faith of a small child. Even in the U.S., which is by far the most prepared nation, I expect at least one disaster (i.e., people will die) to ensue, probably in a large, old metropolitan area.

  • This is the typical reaction of the West (read US media). There is real need of the electricity there. This reactor may be spotty in it's reputation because of the accident but then that's the reason it's an accident. Do we go around asking whether US will use nuclear bomb on some country when clearly the history shows that the US is the only country that has used nuclear bombs ever and that was not an accident.
  • Oh, I didn't say I bought the eco-freak propaganda, but I had heard that the area around chernobyl would be uninhabitable until 20xx..guess not...
  • There was no meltdown. The only explosion was a regular chemical, which resulted in the release of lots of radioactive stuff. However, there was no meltdown, no nuclear explosion. If there had been, the other reactors at the site wouldn't even exist!
  • You are correct, perhaps I should have more carefully worded my statement. *Currently*, solar power is not a reasonable option. I certainly expect that to change in the future. Unfortunately, we're forced to live in the present, which, according to the article, is where the Ukrainians (sp?) are having their trouble.
  • We have to balance safety and need here. Frankly, I don't trust the Ukranians to do that impartially. During the cold war, Wester Culture made the Russians look like stupid, dirty fools. I dunno on what I base this, but I think they are.

    I think that you are a stuck up, arrogant, chauvinistic, ignorant, gullible american dumbass -- what is slightly better than how Communist propaganda made Americans look and is slightly worse than what I see in most Americans, yet perfectly describes qualities, you just demonstrated.

  • Where are your facts and figures? If you're willing to decide that the Ukraine doesn't *need* the electrical power, and that you already know the expected costs and benefits, where are they?

    For what it's worth, you have to accept the possibility of mistakes. Ever cross a street? The solution isn't to avoid risk, but to manage it competently. In this industry, that should mean having a well-designed plant where safety measures such as shutting down a reactor happen as smoothly as possible, and having a trained, competent staff... not by running away and pretending that the need for power isn't there.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    The radiation wasn't nearly as harsh as everyone thinks. I'm not saying that there isn't any, or it won't make you dreadfully ill if you go mushroom picking in the forests nearby... Its the general fear of anything radioactive that has people thinking that just coming close to Chernobyl will cause instant death.

    I personally have an uncle that was a soldier detailed in the construction of the sarcophagus. He's still fine and healthy today.

    The employees at Chernobyl are bussed to and from the reactor every morning, because they're not allowed to live overly close to it. Other than that, its business as usual. Just some doors in the reactor building are welded shut. =)

    If the west is so upset about Chernobyl, why don't they remember their promises of financial aid to Ukraine to build replacement reactors so Chernobyl can be shut down????

    The western European countries, plus Canada and the USA backed out of their promises. So naturally, Ukraine backs out of its promise to shut down Chernobyl. Considering that in winter, in many towns, electrical power is only on every second hour, Ukraine has little choice. Ukrainian computer users find UPS backups as indispensible. =]

    Anyone in the west who wants to complain about Chernobyl, they should direct their complaints to their own governments.

    My 2 kopecks.
  • Think not only does it need to be relatively non-polluting (at least in terms of heat, it will pollute, right? I'm also under the impression that solar cells, for instance, produce chemical waste byproducts, but eh...), but it needs to be dependable, scalable and preferably ubiquitous...

    Hmmm. Geothermal energy? Hydroelectricity? Wind power?
  • by Stonehand (71085) on Saturday November 27, 1999 @11:25AM (#1501534) Homepage
    Well, hey, there *should* be some guilt involved, due to deliberately hastening the collapse of the Soviet system by straining its economy... The Western powers, especially the US, basically helped destroy a government that'd been in place since 1917. Given that our quarrel was more with the leaders than the bulk of the citizens, it'd be nice if we lent 'em a hand.

    It also makes decent sense to get the Ukraine and other former SSRs back onto a firm economic basis. While the Ukraine might not be a nuclear (armed) power anymore, IIRC (thinking that they transferred their weapons to either Russian control or to over here for disassembly), there should be *somebody* stable in the region.
  • The problem with CANDU is not that it will have a melt down (the reation will fail after too much heat (not like 3 mile island) or with too little heat). It can use weapons grade plutonuim, but it does produce an interesting substance.

    Tritium is found in large quantities in the heavy water. I am not an expert on neuclear weapons but, correct me if I'm wrong, tritium is used in both fission and fussion bombs.

    Oh and Canada has also sold reactors to China and quite a few other places.
  • Nothing melted down. liquid graphite "the coolant" changed to a gas(like water to steam) and Blew the top off.
  • The US has around 128 Nuclear Power Plants not to mention all of our Nuclear powered Navy, which has been running for over 30 years. The Navy has lost two Nuclear subs the Thresher and the Scorpion. Neither has anything to do with nuclear propulsion Plants. One was lost the same place and time as a Soviet sub [hint], the other had a battery room explosion. There was TMI. The US had similar experience to Chernobyl with SL1 which was a portable Army Reactor "Two people Died". All in all I dont know of many other major industries with this kind of safety record. More people died making the Golden Gate Bridge.
  • Having already experienced the effects of one nuclear meltdown in Tjernobyl I would not like to experience a second one. They need international assistance - now! That's my $0.02...

  • Just the same, if the global warming theory is correct, the problem is fossil fuels. Nuclear power plants produce next to no greenhouse gases.

    I do have to agree with this, but there are just a few tiny, little details that are usually not mentioned by the nuclear lobby.
    For example the fact that for the mining and preparation and transport of the uranium, an amount of greenhouse gasses is produced, equal to what a cole-powered plant would have produced, producing the same amount of energy the nuke-plant does. And of course, more is produced when transporting the waste material and processing it.

    Then there's the fact that of the 30 years of lifespan an average nuke-plant has, it's busy for 29 years to re-produce the energy used for building the plant and winning and processing the uranium before it can be used, so the actual effective duration of winning energy is only one year.

    Of course this is totally unimportant to the nuke-lobby, since THEY make really huge profits in a short time and don't care if the next few hundred generations have to take care of their waste, so why mention this. Just tell people about the very short time the uranium is 'safe' in the reactor and never mind the huge amounts of toxic waste (uranium-ore contains just about 1% uranium, the rest is almost just as radio-active but useless and is just dumped) that is produced before, or the even more dangerous waste, that stays dangerous for thousands of years, what makes storage underground insecure because no-one knows how the earth will behave in that time, and above ground you do not know how long packings will last. (But at least you can do something if anything threatens to go wrong. That is if, say 1500 years in the future, the danger has not became some legend of the past in the eyes of the people living then.

    And it contains plutonium, that is the most toxic material known, and of which only 1 atom in your body is good for a cancer.

    But for the rest, nuclear energy is OK, apart from the chances it gives to terrorists to get their hands on some plutonium/uranium to make a nice nuclear bomb, or a plane-crash on a plant to poison vast areas, or....should i go on?

    I like the text on a Greenpeace-shirt: "Pigs can fly, the earth is flat, and nuclear energy is safe"

    So far for my 0.02.
  • There are two basic complaints with Yucca Mountain.

    1. A permanent dump for nuclear waste needs to be geologically stable. Five-meter-thick concrete walls don't do you much good if the earth's crust goes "pop". Shortly after Yucca Mountain was declared "stable", a fairly significant earthquake hit it. This does not inspire confidence in the site's long term ability to safely contain dangerous waste.

    2. The state of Nevada has no nuclear reactors, and thus produces no nuclear waste. From what I recall hearing when I lived there, this was decided by referendum and may reasonably be described as the preference of the folks who live there. Many people thus feel that it is unjust for the DOE to dump most of the nation's waste in Nevada. Thus the omnipresent "Nevada Is Not A Wasteland" bumper stickers.

    So there is a little more to the debate than "people who don't know much about nuclear energy."

    -Mars
  • I'm sorry to have to disagree with you, but no-one has succeeded so far to clean nuke waste in such a way it can be re-used. During the lifespan of the fuel-elements in a reactor, all kinds of isotopes and polluting elements are formed, most of which are very hard to get rid of and making the stuff unusable. Countries have large stocks of 're-worked' fuel that simply is unusable.

    Oh, by the way, breeding technology is developed, but has been proven useless for the reasons mentioned above.

    About your remark about shooting the waste into the ocean-floor: Do you know what this ocean floor will do in the next 10,000 years? Or how currents will behave? I for myself would not care for a few hundred years, but with this you are talking about thousands of years. A bet i would not like to take!

    The Earth is flat, pigs can fly and nuclear energy is safe.

    Another 0.02.
  • The point is that when considering a nuclear
    power plant, it's more to worry about than just the energy resource being defect.
    Perhaps the extra cooling that is needed, and
    that is supposed to arrive at 22.31, doesn't
    start because the year is 1900, and it doesn't start for 100 years...
    Perhaps the reactor is supposed to stop at 04.00,
    but it doesn't because the computer can't figure out what to do, because it doesn't understand the
    date.
    Result: the reactor operates out of limit and regulations --> it overheats, and has a meltdown
    --> mayhem.
    For the most part the y2k-bug is blow out of
    proportions, but some parts of it is really serious.
  • I don't know that radiation has anything to do with the deterioration of the sarcophagus. The thing was built very rapidly in a very hostile
    environment on top of a structurally unsound building. And it hasn't been kept up terribly well since.

    Of course, given the economic situation in the area one really can't blame them for the lack of attention. This is definitely an instance where it's in the West's best interests to help out.
  • by GauteL (29207)
    Why do people often make the assumption, that
    everybody here is from the US?
    Slashdot has a lot of European readers, and
    Norway, Sweden, Germany, France, Belgium, United
    Kingdom, etc. may all suffer from nuclear
    disasters in eastern Europe.
  • All of you that are interested in this story should seek out a documentary called "Pripyat". It played here in Olympia, WA, as part of our local film society's annual film festival (yay!) this year and it is an AMAZING sight...

    Chernobyl is surrounded by The Zone, a 20km (IIRC) area that is cordoned off. There is an entire city that sits abandoned within the zone(there's a special issue of Scientific American on the stands now, an issue on gigantic engineering projects, that includes a double-page photograph overlooking this city). Armed guards control access to the zone, which is supposed to have been completely evacuated, but of course there are still people living there.

    The filmmakers of Pripyat didn't do much editorializing - they pretty much just set up the camera and let it roll. Their subjects include an elderly couple who live a primitive lifestyle within the zone, a worker who travels to the zone every day for her job testing for radiation, and best of all: the Chernobyl plant safety manager! It even includes a bit of a tour of the plant! The safety officer goes on quite a bit about the heavy responsibility he bears, and then shows the camera crew how wonderful their lunches are and how they're free of charge, and then laments that he only wishes he got PAID for his job... yup, after many months on the job, this guy, the frickin' plant safety officer, still hadn't ever been paid. Talk about pushing a willie button... that oughta be enough to give anyone the heebie jeebies. That and the fact that all the controls and electronics looked vintage 1952, and the rest of the building appeared to be a little shaky in the maintenance department.

    Anyway, if you have a cool video store in your neighborhood, it'd be worth your while to ask them to get it in for you when it becomes available. HIGHLY recommended!

  • My thinking is that we sped it up by accelerating the arms race. They strained their economy trying to spend the money both in development and in production, neglecting other critical parts of their economy in the process... which they couldn't afford.

    If, say, for some reason there were no arms race (that is: there wasn't anybody else...), it would have taken longer for 'em to wind down, and it might have been a very different transition. It might have been worse -- say, a violent revolution once more. Or, it might have been better -- such as a more gradual shift towards capitalism, as the PRC is trying (but while maintaining complete political control...).
  • Do you have a reference for this info? I don't doubt that most people tend to ignore the costs and dangers of building the plants and mining the materials but I do question your numbers. BTW I've been known to make similar arguements with reguard to electric cars and certain other "polution free" alternatives.
  • by smash_phase (95484) on Saturday November 27, 1999 @05:58PM (#1501577) Homepage
    Let me first make a summary of some of the facts known to me...

    The Chernobyl plant (or Chornobyl as the Oekrainian people call it now), consisted out of 5 RBMK reactors..
    The 1st reactor was brought back on line Oktober 1995 and the 4th this year, if I recall it right..

    The Chernobyl plant is unique, because it was designed for two purposes:
    1) Supplying power
    2) Producing nucleair weapons.. This is also one of the main reasons, it lacks a containment structure.

    During the construction of the plant, some engineers came to the believe, that the plant had structural design flaws in the cooling system and pleeded to halt the construction, these engineers where taken of the project and Russia made sure that the carrier ended as well..

    The #4 reactor of the Chernobyl plant, exploded after series of human errors, when conducting a 'safety test'.

    Before running the safety test, all three safety systems where disabled.

    The test was performed to see, how long the reactor could hold out, when shutting it down and not generating power, without external power to the water cooling pumps & controls and without the backup power generators online.. Also, the emergency core cooling system was taken off-line..
    The reactor was deliberaty put below a power output of 700MW, the strict minimum limit to garanty safe operations of all support systems and the reactor it self.. After a series of major human ignorance and errors that followed, mainly the work of Deputy chief engineer Dyatlov, who also lead the test, the reactor #4 finally exploded. [geocities.com]
    In the immidiate vicinity, there where about 135000 people, who where only evacuated days after the incident happend... It took around 8000-10000 lives of worksman, mostly soldiers (liquidators), to put out the fire and to seal of the reactor, by building 'the Sarcophagus' [geocities.com]. (Almost) all people, who did the footage on the accident, by helicopter, died.
    The radiation level in the surrounding environment, was much faster reduced, than scienctist would have expected, helped by a natural process called 'chitin'.
    Envision how in the western world, these rescue workers would be dressed like and than look at the liquidators [geocities.com]

    Since 1996, a lot of modifications are done to the Chornobyl reactors, but the basic design, with it's flaws, wasn't changed, nor is the situation surrounding these reactors...
    In 1997 Russia agreed to build more reactors, based on the RBMK models in Chornobyl..
    In 1986, Russia could find 10.000 souls, who were send into their dead, to end the disaster..
    In 1999, Ukrainian people know a lot more about radiation... Today, the area around Chernobyl is still inhabitat by Oekrainian people, who feel they are left alone by the government..
    Unemployment is sky high, as you would expect, so no source of income and medical threatment is done under very bad conditions, by idealistic people who don't care about their own lives...

    What if it would happend again now?
    What if they decide to run Y2K 'tests'?

    Check for more info these links: this [geocities.com] and this [pbs.org]
    "The odds of a meltdown are one in 10,000 years. The plants have safe and reliable controls that are protected from any breakdown with three safety systems." Vitaly Sklyarov, Minister of Power for the Ukrainian SSR., February 1986
  • by DragonHawk (21256) on Saturday November 27, 1999 @08:02PM (#1501586) Homepage Journal
    There are two real problems with nuclear power: Disposal of spent fuel (waste) and accidents. Once you analyze them, you realize there is but one problem with nuclear power: Longevity.

    Accidents are the joker card in this game. Nuclear power would be fantasic -- if nothing ever went wrong. Unfortunately, one of the few constants in our existance seems to be Murphy's Law: What can go wrong, will go wrong. And when things go wrong in nuclear power, the resulting fallout (pun quite intended) can be drastic.

    If a coal plant catches fire, you have a lot of smoke, some toxic chemicals, possibly explosions, the usual sort of industrial accident. But within a few days, a week or two at the outside, the fire will be out and you can start picking up the pieces.

    At Chernobyl, they won't be able to pick up the pieces for hundreds of years.

    Spent fuel (nuclear waste) is the second problem I mentioned. When the oil is finished burning, all your waste has gone up the stack, for better or worse. With nuclear power, the spent fuel rods must be kept until they decay to the point where they are no longer hazzardous.

    Again, this process takes hundreds of years. During all that time, you keep accumulating more and more waste. You cannot handle it without special suits or robots. You need to keep it away from water, to prevent contamination of the water table. You need to do this for a long, long time.

    And that is the real problem with nuclear power (or nuclear anything): Longevity. Nuclear waste remains hazardous far longer then anything else we have to deal with. Unlike a conventional industrial accident, the result of a nuclear accident may well last until your grandchildren are dead. Just creating a storage container that lasts long enough stretches our technology.

    The people who design nuclear waste storage facilities spend a good deal of time trying to make the place look as dangerous as possible, using universal symbols that any human will understand. The reason why is simple: This stuff will remain deadly longer then modern civilization has been around. They have to account for anything up to and including the collapse of our society in their designs. That is the time scale we're dealing with here.

    Once you realize that, you realize the problem. With almost everything else, we can afford to make mistakes. It may be bad, but we can fix the problem and move on. Not with nuclear power. Nuclear power demands perfection -- and that is one thing we cannot provide.
  • Chernobyl has four reactors. Reactor #2 exploded in April of 1986, and Reactor #4 caught fire in 1992 and was disabled (without a radiation-leak mishap like six years previously, however.) There are two left that still work, and one of these (#3) is what is being restarted. (I make no claims as to the accuracy of the reactor numbers; I probably mixed them up. Oh well.)

    What's interesting is 1) Where the workers will live, seeing as how Pripyat is still uninhabitable, and 2) how the workers will be protected from the vast quantities of Cesium-137 still found in the region.
  • by Windigo The Feral (N (6107) on Sunday November 28, 1999 @05:49AM (#1501610)

    Micah dun said:

    I did an Internet search, and found several USENET postings and a couple different websites indicating that Chernobyl does indeed mean Wormwood, and nothing saying it didn't.

    This canard has been going around in fundy circles for a long time--specifically, ever since Chornobyl went boom (yup, since the 80's...when the same folks were also claiming Russia was Gog and Moscow was Magog and that Gorbachev was really the Antichrist). I can also tell you that those websites probably ALL got their info from the same source (the good old fundamentalist Christian rumour mill--the same one that's been spreading the urban legends about Disney movies and Proctor & Gamble being supposedly run by Satanists for God-only-knows how long) and the claim that "Chornobyl" means "Wormwood" is patent male bovine manure. :)

    A little bit of fact-finding (which is how I found it was bull, btw)--Ukrainian, Russian, Belorussian, and other "Eastern Slavic" languages are VERY closely related. So closely related in fact that often they are mutually intelligible in roughly the same manner Catalan and Castillian Spanish, or Castillian Spanish and Portugese, are.

    "Chernozem" (Ukrainian "chornozem") is Russian for "black earth" and refers to a very rich, black earth that exists in Ukraine. The name "Chernobyl" (Ukrainian "Chornobyl"; the official name of the town has in fact been Chornobyl since Ukraine told Russia it was breaking away from the old USSR) means "black table" and is a direct reference to the rich chernozem earth in the area.

    (Warning--massive rant about to begin on how coercive fundy groups feed their memberships stuff like this. If you don't want to hear gory details and me whinge long and pissy on it, scroll to the next message now. If you are of a fundamentalist bent, you probably will NOT want to read what I am about to say next. :)

    This isn't the first time fundies have been loose with the facts, btw. Nearly all of the urban legends about Disney movies having sexual references started from one or two sources in the fundamentalist Christian community (visit here [snopes.com] for a good reference). In Sunday school back when I was young and stupid and thoroughly brainwashed, we were told (among other things) that the CEO of NBC was a practicing Satanist, that facial creams with "placenta" contained ground-up aborted babies (yes, they actually told us this in Sunday school! And for the record, stuff with placenta contains COW PLACENTA, not ground-up aborted human babies), that the ERA would force women to be lesbians, that parents should not send their kids to Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts but instead to the fundy alternatives (Royal Rangers & Missionettes) because the Boy Scouts supposedly allowed gay Scoutmasters and promoted atheism (a patent lie--they will not even let you IN if you are gay or atheist; several lawsuits have in fact been filed AGAINST the Boy Scouts because of this), and other fun tall tales. The same church has a guy who sent out fliers to the better part of my city (large metro area of almost a million people) including grocery stores that claimed all gay men were members of NAMBLA; the church members are told this and do not question it because they are literally told to avoid ALL "non-Christian" media because the media industry outside of that run by rabid fundies is run by Satanists (!). They even give out "Christian Yellow Pages" telling them not to do business except with those of "like faith" so they won't have to deal with people who might show them they are being fed outright lies by their pastor :P (And people wonder why I say that at least some branches of fundamentalist Christianity are as bad as Scientologists. They're as coercive, in any case (as I found out being brought into the Scientology debates back when the CoS was doing major net.abuse like the Cancelbunnies instead of just suing websites into oblivion); hell, at least one Assemblies of God church (the AoG is one of your biggest fundy denominations, btw--something like two million members) was actually outed as a cult on 20/20 (the "Brownsville Movement" in Pensacola, FL) and I can testify from my experience in an AoG church and from that of others who've walked away that more often than not those churches turn dangerously coercive. Pretty much they trip EVERY one of the warning signs that have been used for Scientologists; a favourite brainwashing tool [the whole "engrams" thang] is a repackaged version of good old "deliverance ministry" [the idea that anything trying to drive you out of that church--from news reports on how it's coercive to your own inner doubts--are signs of Satanic possession and you must "pray the demons out" or "exorcise" them by force...there are verified cases where people have been driven insane or even killed in these "exorcisms", and the Scientology equivalent is widely regarded as the single most damaging aspect of it], neither Scientologists nor coercive fundy groups want their members to have any outside info at all [saying slags are being done by "subversive persons"/"agents of Satan"], both exert heavy control on members [Scientologists being encouraged to join "Sea Org", fundies being encouraged to join political groups and to homeschool their kids, send them to fundy-run colleges when possible, and using "cell groups" to basically snitch on each other to make sure members stay in control], both have lots of money...I really could go on for hours on it. I've been a walkaway for something like thirteen years now, and I'm only starting to realise just HOW coercive the group was and just HOW much bull I was fed "in the name of God". And that's from one of the biggest damn churches in the COUNTRY. :P

    ObY2K: Oh, and after Russia and Iraq didn't pan out as Gog and Magog and after a succession of Gorby, Boris "Where's the Stoli?" Yeltsin, Saddam Hussein, and Bill Clinton (!) didn't pan out as the Antichrist and/or Da Source of Da Comin' Pockylipse, now they're running about saying that the WWW is going to be the source of Armageddon and Y2K is going to be the Apocalypse (they were saying earlier that the world being destroyed by fire was going to be a nuclear war between the US and Russia over Israel (!)...and they were darn near jizzing themselves over it, too...it's really sickening in a way to know that the main reason they support Israel and Jews at ALL is because they are hoping Israel will get into some kind of war which would blow the entire world to kingdom-come, and they're essentially kissing God's arse by supporting anything Israel does [up to and including human rights violations] because they want to fight on the same side as the Israelis when the last war starts because they think that no matter what Israel is "God's Team"). Myself, I'm more afraid of the fundies running about spouting that crap than I am of society falling down going thud because of Y2K, because if they don't get their Armageddon they might try to make their own (and apparently Israel is so concerned about it that they've already set up a special task force just to deal with potentially dangerous fundy Christian groups--they've already had to send three groups out of Israel so far, and it's not even December yet...and also keep in mind that most fundy groups care about Israel for only three reasons--a) because they see Israelis as "God's Chosen" and hope to be lumped in with "God's Chosen" by supporting Israel no matter what [I actually heard it preached "You support them even if they commit genocide against an entire nation"], b) they are convinced Armageddon is going to break out when Israel goes to war with another country, and c) they want to be where the action is when Jesus comes back to play General Patton to the Army of Gawd). (And yes, I think I have a valid reason for worry--as I noted above and I've noted in past, I grew up in a very coercive fundamentalist group. The group has actually argued that "good people will go to hell and bad people will go to heaven" because as long as one claims one accepts Jesus this supposedly makes things alright--and then they can have carte blanche to do whatever the hell they want to do "in the name of God". They've seriously discussed bringing back the Burning Times and expanding them to ALL non-fundamentalists [Catholics even get denounced as "idol-worshippers", and Baptists as being "lukewarm Christians who don't accept the gifts of tongues"], and in a prior "Second Coming" panic in 1988 [when some guy released a book entitled "88 Reasons Why Jesus Will Come Back In 1988"] many people lost all their money by giving it to the church. Hell, MY family has in past been in financial trouble because money was given in "tithes" and "love offerings" when it was needed for food and bills :P. The group has been known to harass and picket homes of STRAIGHT people who have come out in support of gay-rights ordinances, and for well over ten years literally made the lives of an entire neighbourhood hell when they kept trying to get in construction project after construction project so they could get in additional access roads to suck in even more people [fortunately, Mum Nature intervened by a massive flood, the Corps of Engineers declared the entire area a wetlands and 100-year flood plain where further development was prohibited, and now the church is moving out to somewhere else they hope the neighbours can be bullied easier]. Partly because they ARE being coerced and the church tries it cut off every avenue of info that it doesn't own, and partly because one of the chief tenets is essentially "If you ain't with us you're a Satanist and workin' for the devil", and they are CONVINCED they are going to go to final holy war when Armageddon does hit, I seriously worry what some members of that church might do...and that's a relatively CALM one for coercive Bible-based groups, too. I'm not even gonna go into really scary stuff like Christian Identity or the really radical groups that have set up their own "Entime Camp" communities :P)

  • I didn't read it online, so I can't link the article I read about it. It is a little disputed, but somewhat true, especially in tropical climates. By a google search I found this [globalchange.org] page which has overviews of some reports:

    Results show that the selected method of time preference is a key factor in the outcome. For instance, with low annual discount rates (1-2%) the global warming impact of the Tucurui Dam is 3-4 times less than that of fossil fuel, but the situation reverses above a discount rate of 15%.

    here [newscientist.com] is an article in New Scientist that touches on the issue as well.

    -
    We cannot reason ourselves out of our basic irrationality. All we can do is learn the art of being irrational in a reasonable way.
  • Me: At Chernobyl, they won't be able to pick up the pieces for hundreds of years.

    You: Actually, reactors 1 and 2 were restarted quite soon after the accident.

    I was refering to the reactor that exploded.

    Also, I believe the entire complex was pretty well contaminated, to the point where a long term posting there would be hazardous to your health.

    The area rendered uninhabitable is comparable in size to your average East European coal strip mine.

    Oh, you can screw up damn near anything if you try hard enough. But the thing is, you don't have to strip mine coal. But if a nuclear plant blows, you have no choice but to entomb it for hundreds of years.

    You can also undo strip mining a lot easier and quicker then you can undo a nuclear accident. Given sufficient replacement earth and some seeds and transplants to get things started, you can fix what we have done wrong.

    ...launch the waste on a trajectory into the Sun...

    Riiiight. Remember Challenger? I can't think of a better way to contaminate a large area with nuclear fallout then trying to launch it into space.

    This is not feasible at the moment due to the exorbitant cost and high risks of launching something, but in 50 years at the latest it will be...

    I would like to see your proof that 50 years from now, all of our space launch problems will magically solved. :-)

    Even if you could make it cheap and reasonably safe, remember Murphy's Law. No matter how safe it is, it will not be perfect -- perfection is outside of the human condition. All it takes is one accident, and you risk making my home state unhealthy to live in for much longer then I like.

    Incidentally, the best proposals I have heard for cheap, clean power do involve space: Put the power plants themselves up there. You can do this with nuclear power if you like, but building our own reactor is silly when we already have one with Sol. All you need are some high quality mirrors, and you can beam nearly unlimited power directly to Earth.

    ... by then we will probably have fusion.

    It would be nice, but it is far from a sure thing. Remember "Atomic power will be too cheap to meter"? :-)

    You may already know this, but fusion is not as magically clean as some people would like to think. Oh, there is no long-term, high-level waste from spent fuel like there is with conventional fission. But the fussion reaction releases high-energy particles which irradiate the reactor plant itself. Far easier to deal with fission, but still a not insignificant problem.

    You also have to remember that the longer something stays radioactive, the safer it is.

    Only if you are standing next to it. The big danger with high-level waste is corrosion due to water. A leak in the roof can result in the local water table being contaminated with enough radioactive material to make drinking it unsafe.

    Oh, sure, the discovery that radon has much the same effect is pretty chilling. But even if you are standing in a burning building, you shouldn't pour gasoline on the fire. :)

    One thing that does look promising is artificially accelerating the decay of the waste. By bombarding the waste with high energy radiation, some scientists think they may be able to reduce the danger period from hundreds of years to a few decades, something which we can manage fairly well. That leaves only accidents (and possibly cost) as the show-stopper.
  • I remember a video made of the concrete thing the reactor was encased in. Americans (who keep detectors around for safety's sake) stood right next to the reactor, showed on film the lib of the old reacor case (standing on end, like the lid of a round jar can stand on end over the hole) and noting that their exposure was currently less the normal background radiation on earth. Of course they almost turned a corner before noting the detectors sensing enough radiation to kill someone in minutes.

    Oh yes, for thsoe who didn't know, they built sometime of concrete to encase the reactor, but it wasn't intended to keep anything in or out. Birds fly through it once in a while, and people do to in to study the reactor.

FORTUNE'S FUN FACTS TO KNOW AND TELL: #44 Zebras are colored with dark stripes on a light background.

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