Here are some unknown facts and myths about Chernobyl

Here are some unknown facts and myths about Chernobyl

Updated on August 25, 2022 11:06 AM by Emily Hazel

The meltdown and explosion at Chernobyl are unquestionably the worst nuclear tragedy to ever occur. If you are older than 30, you are familiar with the Chernobyl nuclear tragedy. Here is a recap, in case you haven't. Reactor #4 overheated and exploded on April 26, 1986, around 1:23 am. Three people died immediately, and thousands more died from radiation due to the discharge of a radioactive cloud. There is some disagreement over the precise figure. Furthermore, it generated countless problems for most of Europe. The meltdown sparked a phobia of nuclear power that endures today, although many of the more crucial and fascinating details have not received much attention. Several long-standing misconceptions regarding the nuclear tragedy have resurfaced in light of HBO's most recent smash historical drama series Chernobyl. Jack Unwin examines some of the more fantastical tales relating to the Chernobyl nuclear accident.

The most serious nuclear accident in history occurred in 1986 at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in northern Ukraine, close to the city of Pripyat. Rarely, though, is this fantastic portrayal further explained. Nuclear occurrences are categorized as accidents, incidents, and anomalies on a scale from 0 to 7 by the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale (INES). The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Nuclear Energy Agency of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (NEA/OECD) developed it, and it was first made public in 1990. A "serious accident," defined as "a major discharge of radioactive material with broad health and environmental repercussions necessitating the adoption of planned and extended countermeasures," is level seven. 

Here are some unknown facts about Chernobyl

1. Sweden sent the first alert

Keep in mind that 1986 was still a part of the cold war. When something happened, the Soviet Union didn't immediately inform the West. In reality, it took them days to order their citizens to leave the neighborhood. The first people in the West to learn about the explosion were Swedish nuclear plant personnel, whose sensors detected elevated radiation levels. The first warning that something was going on came from Sweden. We didn't comprehend what had happened until the rest of the world aimed its satellites toward what is currently northern Ukraine.

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2. Radioactive Iodine is the first Killer

The true murderers after the explosion are radioactive isotopes, which are spread by airborne dust particles that then fall to the earth. One of the most hazardous is radioactive iodine, which may quickly build up in the thyroid gland and cause thyroid cancer and death.

Radioactive iodine won't build up if your thyroid is adequately stocked with natural iodine. However, those who are deficient in natural iodine, such as those who reside in iodine-deficient soils, are particularly in danger. To prevent the buildup of radioactive iodine in people's bodies, relief operations start by delivering iodine pills to those in affected areas. Since Iodine-131 only has an 8-day half-life, the hazard does not present a long-term issue.

3. The long-term killers are strontium-90 and cesium-137

Cesium-137 and strontium-90 pose arguably the most serious threat. Their respective half-lifetimes are 30 and 28 years. With these two, their consumption poses the main risk. Strontium-90 is easily integrated into the bones and teeth of people, especially young children, who have consumed milk from cows that have consumed contaminated fodder because it follows the chemistry of calcium. Cesium-137 is easily absorbed into the blood and can be incorporated into both human and animal tissues since its chemistry is similar to that of potassium. At varied rates, all of this results in grave health problems and fatalities. Both of these isotopes nevertheless present a significant concern due to their very long half-lives. There is a safety exclusion zone because only roughly half of the radioactive material has decomposed as of yet.

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4. Radiation in Chernobyl is relative

Different types of radiation exist. Radiation in science refers to a spectrum of electromagnetic radiation. Radio waves are examples of long wavelengths. Light is positioned in the center. Alpha, beta, and gamma rays are examples of short wavelengths that are released by radioactive isotopes. They have the ability to enter your cells and damage your DNA. In fact, these rays are constantly present all around us. The problem is in the sum.

Surprisingly, your radiation exposure might be extremely low even if you are right next to the main reactor. We actually received dosimeter readings that were comparable to flying high in an airplane over the poles while standing in the parking lot and gazing at the melted-down reactor.

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5. Nobody lives in Chernobyl

Chernobyl has a large population that varies throughout time. The feeder city of Pripyat is the ghost town you see in the majority of photos. Theoretically, no one resides there any longer. However, residents of Chernobyl, a town located a little over 10 kilometers from the plant, regularly come and go.

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6. Radiation deaths are still possible in Chernobyl

You might assume it's not horrible if you previously knew Chernobyl's radiation exposure wasn't very bad. There are, in fact, a few pretty hot areas. The fissures in and around Pripyat where the radioactive particles gathered are typically where these hot spots are discovered. Additionally, they are located in parts of the red forest where much of the major fallout occurred and was buried. My Geiger counter went off the charts three times. In essence, our safety personnel advised me that I might be able to endure 4 hours of lying in that position before succumbing to the hazardous radiation and slowly passing away as a result. Although it took longer than I anticipated, it's still nothing to play around with.

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7. Despite being radioactive, the animals are healthy

Obviously, this is a relative statement. The animals there develop strange growths and birth abnormalities as a result of the radiation. In our own species, humans, we would not tolerate even 1% aberration. This, however, seems to the animals to be a little price to pay for residing in an area that is largely devoid of humans. The unfortunate reality is that most animals' ability to live is probably most hampered by human presence.

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8. You can actually visit Chernobyl

You can go as a tourist or a scientist, but we were the first crew with Animal Planet to be given entry to this extensive exclusion zone to investigate and film within. Although I didn't spot any American tourists, there were a few vanloads of Polish tourists that were visiting the site. There are undoubtedly options if you want to be daring. From my personal experience, I'd strongly advise it. You will see even more truths regarding nuclear energy as a result. Just take care. I don't believe the guides typically make you aware of the risks. Keep in mind that radiation is a silent, flavorless, odorless, and unseen killer that will eventually kill you.

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9. Chernobyl is an amazing experiment

Most individuals find it difficult to find any positive aspects of a nuclear tragedy. You can examine the effects of the animals here and contrast them to those outside the zone, even though you could never intentionally expose humans or animals to this quantity of radiation. We covered a lot of ground on this in the Chernobyl documentary. But I won't reveal everything. Visit it to see some of the work we did.

Here are some myths about Chernobyl

1. The blackbird of Chernobyl

People in the Ivankiv Raion, the Ukrainian region that contains Chernobyl, recount legends of the Black Bird, a humanoid creature with wings and piercing red eyes. On April 26, 1986, the day of the tragic disaster, workers at the Chernobyl facility allegedly saw this ghost. After the incident, it was said that anyone who witnessed the creature experienced nightmares and threatening phone calls, albeit it was not mentioned how a winged creature could use a phone.

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2. Alien Clean-up

From the pyramids to the Roswell accident, aliens are the mainstay of tales and conspiracies. Apparently, aliens were also involved in the cleanup after the Chernobyl disaster. Urban myths assert that aliens helped stop greater tragedy at Chernobyl because many people thought the terrible event would be far worse than it was, as opposed to being blamed for starting the nuclear meltdown as part of a scheme to take over the globe.

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3. Chernobyl linkes to HIV- like condition

Both on people's daily life and on their health, the Chernobyl tragedy had a significant impact on East and Central Europe. The event has been blamed for, among other things, the rise in thyroid cancer in the region, but it has also been the subject of false medical reports. One of these falsehoods, which is more harmful, associates Chernobyl with a sickness similar to HIV. The tragedy occurred at a time when HIV-related fear and misinformation were at their height, therefore the story gained some notoriety.

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4. Government cover-ups

A catastrophe of this scope frequently sparks the cliché conspiracy idea, according to which everything was planned by the government, in this case, the Soviet Union. One such theory contends that the Soviet government was responsible for the Chernobyl accident because the fantastic missile defense radio system Duga-3, widely known as "The Russian Woodpecker," malfunctioned. The building, which was suspected of being significantly over budget, was judged such an expensive failure that it had to be removed by allowing the adjoining Chernobyl reactor to melt down. Other official conspiracies include that the CIA destroyed crucial plant equipment or that the Russians had a long-term strategy to stop Europe from developing new nuclear power plants so that it would be dependent on Russian oil and gas.

5. Animal mutation

The Simpsons' three-eyed fish immortalized the long-held but mostly unsupported theory that exposure to nuclear radiation can lead to serious alterations in both humans and animals. There aren't three-headed dogs or squirrels, despite studies showing that animals in the exclusion zone have smaller brains, cataracts, tumors, and sterility. In fact, because of the lack of people, some have dubbed the Chernobyl exclusion zone a paradise for wildlife.

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