Touring Chernobyl In 2010

Remember much about 1986?

That year made a big impression on the eleven-year-old me. In January 1986, I was on the swing set behind my school when some asked me (the school’s astronomy  geek) what happened to the Space Shuttle Challenger.

I think I still have a copy of Time magazine with the explosion that destroyed the Challenger on the cover.

One might think that being on that swinset caused bad things to happen. For it was there on 26 April that people asked me (the school’s nuclear sciences geek) about the what happened at the Chernobyl nuclear reactor in the Soviet Union.

Dang. Why couldn’t people ask me (the school’s computer geek) less heavy questions?

In any case, what happened there basically was a poorly designed experiment with the poorly designed cooling system in the equally faulty reactor went unimaginably wrong. It was followed by an an incompetent response from the Soviet government that would not be rivaled until the flooding of New Orleans in 2005. Apparently that accident unleashed one hundred times the radiation even than the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. Untold thousands of workers and citizens died as a result of the radiation that was spilled over Europe. I recall my dad telling me that the cloud had reached Los Angeles while he was there on a trip.

Ariel view of the exploded reactor no. 4 of the Chernobyl nuclear power station. One hundred times more radiation was released than by the atom bombs dropped over Hiroshima and Nagasaki. © Chernobyl Interinform

Twenty-four years later, people can see the site of the contamination. It’s a maudlin tourist experience that had been documented in many places. The latest is this one,  Touring Chernobyl In 2010.

The site’s author note, “Cleaning up Chernobyl still will take decades more in constructing the delayed New Safe Confinement to then processing the nuclear waste from Chernobyl’s reactors until they can be safely and permanently stowed.”

“This work is expected to take until at least the year 2065.”

I’ll be 90 years old that July.

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Author: Jason Haas

Jason is an elected member of the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors, occasionally moonlights as an amateur gardener, and is a proud father of two, or three, depending on how you do the math.