What are some incredible facts and myths about the Chernobyl nuclear disaster
What are some incredible facts and myths about the Chernobyl nuclear disaster
Updated on August 29, 2022 15:17 PM by Dhinesh
Since the release of Chornobyl, there has surely been an increase in the dialogue about nuclear power, safety concerns, and the disaster itself. Plenty of articles have been written in praise of the show and also asking questions about the science and also the historical accuracy behind it.
The incident had its small-scale industry of horror stories related to the disaster that took place and its aftermath.
The Chornobyl nuclear explosion was the worst nuclear disaster the world has experienced till now. The explosion took place in 1986 on 26 April. The disaster hides some incredible facts.
From the tales of people wandering in the exclusion area and mutated animals to the tale of a baby born in the exclusion area, endless such stories have taken over the internet after the show's release.
Facts about Chernobyl
Sweden was the first to send the alert
You need to understand that 1986 was the year when the cold war was still going on. The Soviet Union wouldn't tell the West what was occurring right when it was happening.
The country took too long to tell its people to leave the nearby areas. When the disaster occurred, the first west people to know about it were the Swedish Nuclear facility workers whose sensors showed high levels of radiation.
Thus, Sweden became the first country to send alerts that something wrong was happening. But, the world had to wait till they pointed their satellite in Northern Ukraine's direction. After that, the world came to know what was happening.
Strontium-90 and Cesium-137 were killed in the long term
These are probably the most serious threats. The two have lives of 28 and 30 years, respectively. The real threat is in their ingestion. Strontium-90 is the follower of calcium chemistry.
It is incorporated in teeth and bones – especially in children who drink the milk of cows who consumed contaminated fodder.
Cesium-137 follows potassium chemistry, so it is easily taken in the blood and may be carried into the tissues of people and also animals. All these reasons are behind serious health concerns and death at different rates.
The comparatively long half-life of these two isotopes makes them problematic even today. Only half of the radioactive material till now has decayed; therefore, an exclusion area for safety.
Chernobyl is deserted
There are plenty of people who live in Chornobyl but at different times. The ghost city which is shown in the images is the feeder city of Pripyat.
In theory, no one lives there now. However, Chornobyl is a town located 10 km away from the reactor and has people living there who come and go regularly.
Death from radiation is still a possibility in Chernobyl
The radiation in Chornobyl wasn't that bad is false. To be honest, there are a few pretty hot spots. These hot spots are usually located in the nearby areas of Pripyat, where the radioactive substance accumulates.
They are also found in the areas of the reading forest – a place where major fallout took place as it was buried. Anybody standing there for more than four hours would eventually die of radiation.
The first killer is radioactive iodine
After the blast occurred, the real killers were seen in the form of radioactive isotopes – transferred by dust particles swimming in the air and falling on the ground. Out of all the radioactive isotopes, iodine is the most dangerous one as it has the potential to quickly gather itself in the thyroid gland, resulting in thyroid cancer and then death.
When you have sufficient natural iodine accumulated in your thyroid, in that case, radioactive iodine will not collect. But, if people are deficient in natural iodine, just like those who live in areas where the soils don't have iodine, they are at risk especially.
That's why relief efforts start by providing iodine tablets to people living in affected areas – so that radioactive iodine does not gather in their bodies. Fortunately, the radioactive iodine, Iodine-131, possesses a half-life of just eight days, so it doesn't pose any long-term threat.
Radiation found in Chornobyl is relative
Radiation has many forms. In science, radiation is shown falling on a range of electromagnetic radiation. Light is presented somewhere in the middle. Radioactive isotopes emit small lengths such as alpha, beta, and gamma. These are so powerful that they can even enter your cells and completely damage your DNA. Of course, we all are exposed to these rays all the time. So, what is the problem? The problem is the number of rays.
The relative nature of the radiation in Chornobyl can be known from the fact even if somebody is very close to the major reactor; their radiation levels can still be very low.
Radioactive animals are doing fine
It is a relative statement, of course. In that area, radiation leads to congenital disabilities and odd animal growth. We, as humans, couldn't even tolerate a 1% rate of abnormality in the species.
However, it is comparatively a small price for animals to have a place of their own as no human lives there. The sad truth is that the interference or mere presence of humans is most likely the biggest problem for most animals to survive.
You can go to Chernobyl
It may surprise you or look weird, but you can have a trip to Chornobyl as a scientist or even as a tourist. There are means to see it if you are so adventurous. Visiting this place will make you aware of more truths about nuclear energy.
Cheryl, in an incredible experiment
Most people would not see any silver lining in a nuclear disaster of such magnitude. But it has a silver lining, even if you don't want to believe it. And that silver lining is that Chornobyl proves to be an incredible experiment ground.
Because you can never give human beings or even animals such radiation levels in a laboratory-designed experiment. So, you can examine the impact of the animals there and compare them with the animals lying outside that region.
Myths about Chernobyl
Alien clean up
Aliens have served as the bread and butter of the conspiracies and myths ranging from the Roswell crash to the pyramids. And how can aliens not have a hand in the Chornobyl disaster cleanup?
Instead of being blamed for the nuclear meltdown as part of the plan to take over the world, urban legends say that these residents of other planets didn't let the further disaster happen at ChernobylChornobyl because many people felt the disaster was to be more terrible than it was.
An eyewitness claimed he saw a burning ball of light lingering for some time above the naked reactor on the night of the incident. The same ball of light was seen on 16 September 1989 when the world saw more radiation leak from a unit at Chornobyl; some imaginative narratives came from the extraterrestrials, which were limiting the radiation.
The blackbird of Chernobyl
Usually, following disaster stories come out a momentous doom, generally in the form of imaginary or real creatures.
Chornobyl is located in Ivankiv Raion, a Ukraine district where people share a story about a Black Bird. It is a human creature with piercing red eyes and wings. Workers working at the Chornobyl plant saw this creature on 26 April 1986, the fateful day of the accident.
After the incident, all those who saw the creature had nightmares and received threatening calls. However, nobody questioned how a winged creature was dialing their numbers.
Robert Maxwell is an Australian archaeologist. He once worked at Chornobyl. After the incident, he said in an interview that it had become one of those fables which are hard to track as it is based on the accounts of those people who lost their lives because of radioactive contamination.
Chornobyl is related to an HIV-like condition
The ChernobylChornobyl accident had a massive impact on Eastern and Central European people's everyday lives and health. For instance, the disaster has been linked to a rise in thyroid cancer in a region, among other types of cancer, but at the same time, it has also been a target for some fake medical stories.
One such myth links Chornobyl with an HIV-type illness. The accident coincided with the ignorance and height of panic surrounding HIV; this fable got some traction.
More often than not, a disaster of this size attracts the usual conspiracy theory that the government staged everything, and here it was the Soviet government.
As per one such theory, the Chornobyl disaster was done by the Soviet government because of the failure of a missile defense radio structure known as Duga-3, also called The Russian Woodpecker. Suspected of being incredibly over budget, the structure was seen as such a costly flop that to get rid of it; the nearby Chornobyl plant was left to go into a meltdown.
Some other conspiracy theories also say that the CIA disrupted essential equipment at the facility or the accident was a far-sighted plan by the Soviet government to prevent Europe from building new nuclear facilities and continue to be dependent on Russian oil and gas.
Also Read: What shouldn’t have happened in the past
Immortalized with the help of the three-eyed fish in The Simpsons, this idea of nuclear radiation caused by severe alterations in animals and people has been a long-set idea, though with a little scientific basis.
Considering the case of Chornobyl, was the foundation of a video game known as S.T.A.L.K.E.R Shadow of Chernobyl, staged 20 years after that disaster and in a parallel universe where another reactor explosion resulted in lifeforms mutating into massive versions of themselves.
In reality, the research made it clear that animals found in the exclusion area had smaller cataracts, brains, sterility, and tumors. There are no multi-eyed squirrels or three-headed dogs. Some people have called the Chornobyl exclusion area a paradise for animals because of the absence of the people.
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