25 chernobyl


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CHERNOBYL'S DEADLY LEGACY


April 26 marks the anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at
Chernobyl in northern Ukraine. Despite the very strict systems of checks and
safety measures employed at nuclear power plants, the explosion at Chernobyl
in
April 1986 was devastating proof of the old maxim that "accidents can happen".


Chernobyl was not the first accident at a nuclear power plant. Serious accidental releases of
radioactivity occurred at Chalk River, Ontario, Canada in 1952, Windscale (now
Sellafield), UK in
1957, and Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania, USA in 1979. But these events were overshadowed by
Union. It was the most serious accident

to have occurred at a nuclear power plant, and an event which
has haunted the world's nuclear industry since.


The plant was supposed to close permanently at the end of 1993


a date agreed between the
Group of Seven (G7) leading industrialised

countries and the Ukrainian government. But, in October
of that year, closure plans were called off after officials in Kiev decided the country could not
function without a supply of electricity from
Chernobyl. Many believe this was inevitable
since G7 of
fered no financial help towards the
closure.


Although all four of the nuclear reactors
at Chernobyl have now been closed down, it is
by no means the end of the matter. Full
decommissioning of the station is expected to
take up to 50 years. Meanwhile, scie
ntists will
continue to monitor the accident's legacy for
human and ecological health for many decades
to come.





WORD STUDY


I. Match the words to make word combinations:

1.

safety

a. releases

2.

devastating

b. help

3.

accidental

c. measures

4.

nuclear

d. proof

5.

financial

e. accident


II. Read the sentences. Comment on the meanings of the words in italics.

1.

These events
were overshadowed
by the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power station

in the Ukraine.

2.

Full
decommissioning
of the station is expected to take

up to 50 years.

3.

Scientists will continue
to monitor
the accident's legacy for human and ecological health.

4.

The accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power station
haunted
the world's nuclear indus
try.




COMPREHENSION


1.

Was the Chernobyl catastrophe the
first accident of its kind?

2.

What hindered the closure of the Chernobyl power plant?





THE ACCIDENT


In the early hours of the morning on the 26
th

of April 1986,
operators at the nuclear reactor complex about 130 km north of Kiev
lost control of the Chernobyl Unit 4 nuclear reactor while conducting
some experiments.


The Chernobyl reactors were not originally designed for civilian
use. Known as
RBMK
-
1000s their design was based on a military
reactor, built to produce materials or nuclear weapons. Moreover, the
RBMK
-
1000 had a design flaw which makes it unstable unless it is
operating at full power. The Chernobyl reactors also did not conform
to i
nternational safety standards: all safety mechanisms could be
switched off manually (that is what had happened just before the catastrophe) and there was no
protective structure around the reactors to limit the effects of the accident.


These design and op
eration failures caused the explosions. The reactor core erupted in a
gigantic explosion, injecting huge amounts of heat and disintegrated radioactive fuel into the
atmosphere. One worker who was on duty in the hall just above the reactor died instantly in

the
explosion. He was the only immediate victim of the blast, but the first in a death toll that is now in the
thousands. Some 3.5 million other people, over a third of them children, are thought to have suffered
illnesses as a result of contamination fro
m the deadly cloud of radioactivity.


Many of the horrors of the aftermath could, however, have been avoided, or at least reduced, if
to tell neighbouring

countries of the disaster, due both to the atmosphere of secrecy that characterised
the country and to uncertainties over the true scale of possible effects. The two explosions took place
at 1.23 a.m. on 26 April. Moscow issued a statement that evening we
ll over twelve hours later, saying
that the measures were being taken to deal
with the accident. In reality, little was being
done. An atomic fire burned at Chernobyl
for days before Swedish authorities alerted
the world to the nuclear fallout that had bee
n
injected high into the atmosphere.




Radioactive contamination from the
explosion was greatest in the northern
Ukraine, neighbouring southern Belarus and
in the parts of the Russian Federation that
are close to the Belarussian/Ukrainian
borders.

But Chernobyl radionuclides were
also dispersed throughout the northern
hemisphere in small amounts, with
particular "hotspots" in areas where rainfall washed radioactive material from clouds: parts of
Austria, Bulgaria, Finland, Germany, Norway, Romania,

Sweden, Switzerland, the UK and
Yugoslavia.


Most concern has focused on the medical dangers to humans from the deposition of
radionuclides. Fruit and vegetables from fields near the plant were destroyed, as was milk from cows
grazing on nearby contaminated grassland. Initial fears focused on iodine
-
131 but this breaks down
quickly. The time taken for half its atoms to decay, its half
-
life, is just 8 days. Attention soon shifted
to caesium
-
134 and caesium
-
137, the latter with a half
-
life of 30 years. Caesium accumulates up the
food chain from the soil

through vegetation to contaminate meat. Special measures were required as
far from the accident as Scandinavia and Britain to restrict the movement and sale for consumption of
livestock. Other dangerous radionuclides involved include strontium
-
90 (half
-
li
fe 29 years) and
plutonium
-
239 (half
-
life 24,000 years).





FACTS AND FIGURES









WORD STUDY


I
.
M
ake a list of radionuclides injected into the atmosphere as a result of the Chernobyl
disaster.


II.


1.

The Chernobyl reactor did not

___________

to international safety standards.

2.

The operators lost control of the Chernobyl Unit 4 nuclear reactor while

some

experiments.

3.

Swedish authorities

_________

the world to the nuclear fallout.

4.

Caesium

_________

in the food chains.

III.

Here are some

dictionary definitions of the words in the art
icle. Find the words.
Translate
them into Russian.

1.

The time it takes for half the atoms in a radioactive substance to decay;

2.

Farm animals kept for use or profit;

3.

The number of people who died in a particular
way or because of a particular event;

4.

The result, outcome;

5.

Place where there is likely to be much trouble or war.


IV. Describe the explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power station. Make use of the
following words and word combinations:

design and
operation failures, a reactor core, to erupt, to inject, disintegrated radioactive fuel,
an immediate victim, death toll, the deadly cloud of radioactivity.





COMPREHENSION


1.

Under which circumstances did the reactor explode?

2.

Which countries fell victim
to the disaster?

3.

Who got victimised in the first turn and why?




LINGERING EFFECTS


Restrictions on food are still in place in some areas up
to 3,000 km from Chernobyl, because radioactive
caesium

from the accident is lingering in the
environment much longer than scientists had
anticipated. A survey last year found unexpectedly
high levels of radioactivity in western Europe which
will last for 50 more years, 100 times longer than
expected. The high

levels of radioactive caesium were
found in fish in lakes in Cumbria (northern England),
and in Norway. During the first 5 years after
Chernobyl, the concentrations of radioactive caesium
measured in most foods and in water declined by ten
times, but in t
he last few years they have changed very little.


Although the health risk to consumers is thought to be small, restrictions on foodstuffs from
-
15
years. Even in

Britain, 389 farms still have restrictions on the sale and slaughter of sheep which will
have to continue until 30 years after the accident. In more contaminated parts of the Ukraine and
Belarus, bans will need to continue for longer.


Restrictions on the

human consumption of forest berries, fungi and fish, which contribute
significantly to people's radiation exposure, will have to continue for at least a further 50 years.


Other long
-
term effects of the Chernobyl accident are evident in people who lived a
round the
power plant at the time of the explosion. Of the 400,000 workers who cleaned up after the blast, an
estimated 30,000 have fallen ill, many with sexual or reproductive disorders. And, in the Ukraine
alone, about 13,000 children are thought to hav
e inhaled or taken with food enough of iodine 131, to
risk contracting thyroid cancer. Today, rates of thyroid
cancer in children have increased tenfold since the
accident. In the first ten years after the accident, well over
500 cases of thyroid cancer we
re reported in Belar
u
sian
children. Another disease, which has become known as
killer cells of the immune system, is also a great concern.
People suffering from this condition are much more
susceptible to le
ukemia and malignant tumours, as well
as heart problems and a variety of more common
infections.





WORD STUDY


I. Supply details to complete the following:

1.

The British farmers still have restrictions on

.........................


2.

In contaminated parts of the Ukraine and Belarus there are restrictions on

..............................


3.

The consumers have restrictions on

...................



II.

Make a list of diseases caused by people's exposure to radioactive substances.


III.

Describe the long
-
term aftermath of the Chernobyl acc
ident.




ENVIRONMENTAL EFFECTS


Despite these terrible consequences, there do appear to
be some aspects of the environment that have actually
benefited from such a devastating human
-
induced
catastrophe. Although local wildlife suffered from the
severe irradiation immediately following th
e accident,
when small areas of ghostly "red forest" appeared as
dead pine leaves turned a rusty brown colour, the
long
-
term impacts so far seem to be beneficial, mainly
thanks to the forced depopulation of farms and villages.
All inhabitants from an area
of 2,800 km sq. around the
power station, consisting of parts of the Ukraine and
Belarus, were evacuated in the aftermath of the explosion. The evacuation of villages near the reactor
began about 40 hours after the explosion. It was only by 2 May, nearly a

week later, that the
exclusion zone is still banned for medical reasons. Although the area has been subjected to some of
the worst radioactive contamination in hi
story, wildlife has proved to be remarkably resistant to the
known biological effects of radiation, notably mutations and birth deformities. Scientists from the
International Radioecology Laboratory just outside the exclusion zone have noted a general incr
ease
in the diversity of wild plants and animals and the unexpected return of rare species to the area. Wild
boar, moose, wolves, deer, beavers, otters and lynx have become well established in the zone, while
species associated with

its previous human occu
pation


such as rats, house mice, sparrows and
pigeons


have declined. No less than 48 species
listed in the international
Red Book
of endangered
animals and plants are now thriving in the
Chernobyl exclusion zone. A rich community of
aquatic wildlife ha
s even been recorded living in
one of the contaminated cooling ponds at the power
station site itself. The surprising resilience of the
local ecology has led to calls for the exclusion zone
to be designated a permanent nature reserve where
endangered plant
s and animals can be free to breed
as the land reverts to its original forested state
thanks to the absence of human interference.





WORD STUDY


I. Explain the meaning of the following word combinations:

Long
-
term impact

Human
-
induced catastrophe

Evacuation zone

Exclusion zone

Permanent nature reserve

"Red Book"




COMPREHENSION


In what way does the environment benefit from the consequences of the accident?




POLITICAL CONSEQUENCES


The disaster at Chernobyl also had serious political
implications for the nuclear power industry. When energy
generated by nuclear fission was first developed for
civilian use in the 1950s, it was heralded as cheap, clean
and safe. The image of nuclear power has changed
considerably since those times, and to
day it is one of the
most controversial forms of energy from both economic
and environmental perspectives. The financial cost of
closing Chernobyl is colossal and the Ukraine is relying
heavily on aid donations from the West to help. The
overall cost of th
e closure could be around US$2 billion and full decommissioning of the station will
take up to 50 years. Meanwhile, Switzerland and Spain have imposed moratoriums on further
construction of nuclear reactors, while Belgium has adopted a long
-
term phase
-
out
plan for its seven
plants. The Dutch government has called for the closure of its last atomic power station and Germany
from the world's most notorious power p
lant at Chernobyl played a part in all of these decisions.


WORD STUDY


Insert the missing prepositions:

1.

The disaster

........

Chernobyl had

serious political implications........
the nuclear power

industry.

2.

The Ukraine is relying heavily

...........

aid donations from the
West to help.

3.

Switzerland and Spain have imposed moratoriums

...........

further construction of nuclear

reactors.

4.

The Dutch government has called.............
the closure of its last atomic power station and

Germany has decided to phase

............


two decades.





FOLLOW
-
UP


I.

Make up a plan to speak about
:

-

the various aspects of the accident at Chernobyl;

-

the way you feel about the disaster and its 'deadly legacy'

-

the measures that ought to be taken in order to diminish its devastating
consequences.


II.
Make up a list of actions one should undertake in case such an accident occurs.


III.

Which of these statements is closest to your own point
of view? What are your
reasons?
Can you support your ideas with examples?



shutting down nuclear
power stations in nearly every country will make Europe a safer
place.



considering the impact of fossil fuels on the climate and environment, we

must de
velop
nuclear power
.



none of nuclear plants fully meets current safety requirements.



new safety measure
s like training simulators, faster
-
acting control r
ods and upgraded control
compute
rs make even RBMKs safe to operate.

















THE ACCIDENT


Date and Time of the Chernobyl Nuclear Accident:

The Chernobyl nuclear accident occurred on
Saturday,
April 26, 1986, at 1:23:58 a.m. local time.


Location of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station:

The V.I. Lenin Memorial Chernobyl Nuclear
Power Station was located in Ukraine, near the town of
Pripyat, which had been built to house power station
employees an
d their families. The power station was in
a wooded, marshy area near the Ukraine
-
Belarus
the capital of Ukraine.


Background on the Chernobyl Nuclear Accident
:

The Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station included four nuclear reactors, each capable of
producing one gigawatt of electric power. At the time of the accident, the four reactors produced
about 10 percent of the electricity used in Ukraine. Construction of the

Chernobyl power station
began in the 1970s. The first of the four reactors was commissioned in 1977, and Reactor No. 4 began
producing power in 1983. When the accident occurred in 1986, two other nuclear reactors were under
construction.


The Chernobyl
Nuclear Accident:

On April 26, 1986, the operating crew planned to test whether the Reactor No. 4 turbines could
produce enough energy to keep the coolant pumps running until the emergency diesel generator was
activated in case of an external power loss. D
uring the test, power surged unexpectedly, causing an
explosion and driving temperatures in the reactor to more than 2,000 degrees Celsius

melting the
fuel rods, igniting the reactor's graphite covering, and releasing a cloud of radiation into the
atmosphe
re.


Causes of the Chernobyl Nuclear Accident:

The precise causes of the accident are still uncertain, but it is generally believed that the series
of incidents that led to the explosion, fire and nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl was caused by a
combination
of reactor design flaws and
operator error.


Loss of Life from the Chernobyl Nuclear
Accident:


By mid
-
2005, fewer than 60 deaths
could
be linked directly to Chernobyl


mostly workers who were exposed to
massive radiation during the accident or
children
who developed thyroid cancer.
Estimates of the eventual death toll from
Chernobyl vary widely. A 200
5 report by the Chernobyl Forum


e
ight U.N. organizations


estimated the accident eventually would cause about 4,000 deaths. Greenpeace places the figure
at
93,000 deaths, based on information from the Belarus National Academy of Sciences.


Physical Health Effects Linked to the Chernobyl Nuclear Accident:

The Belarus National Academy of Sciences estimates 270,000 people in the region around the
accident sit
e will develop cancer as a result of Chernobyl radiation and that 93,000 of those cases are
likely to be fatal. Another report by the Center for Independent Environmental Assessment of the
Russian Academy of Sciences found a dramatic increase in mortality
since 1990

60,000 deaths in
Russia and an estimated 140,000 deaths in Ukraine and Belarus

probably due to Chernobyl
radiation.


Psychological Effects of the Chernobyl Nuclear Accident:

The biggest challenge facing communities still coping with the fallout
of Chernobyl is the
psychological damage to 5 million people in Belarus, Ukraine and Russia. "The psychological impact
is now considered to be Chernobyl's biggest health consequence," said Louisa Vinton, of the UNDP.
"People have been led to think of thems
elves as victims over the years, and are therefore more apt to
take a passive approach toward their future rather than developing a system of self
-
sufficiency."


Countries and Communities Affected by the Chernobyl Nuclear Accident:

Seventy percent of the r
adioactive fallout from Chernobyl landed in Belarus, affecting more
than 3,600 towns and villages, and 2.5 million people. The radiation contaminated soil, which in turn
contaminates crops that people rely on for food. Many regions in Russia, Belarus and U
kraine are
likely to be contaminated for decades. Radioactive fallout carried by the wind was later found in
sheep in the UK, on clothing worn by people throughout Europe, and in rain in the United States.


Chernobyl Status and Outlook:

e worst areas, including all 50,000
people from nearby Pripyat, but millions of people continue to live in contaminated areas.


were abandoned, and young people b
egan to move away
to pursue careers and build new lives in other places. "In
many villages, up to 60 percent of the population is made
up of pensioners," said Vasily Nesterenko, director of the
Belrad Radiation Safety and Protection Institute in Minsk.
"In

most of these villages, the number of people able to
work is two or three times lower than normal." After the
accident, Reactor No. 4 was sealed, but the Ukranian
government allowed the other three reactors to keep
operating because the country needed the

power they
provided. Reactor No. 2 was shut down after a fire
damaged it in 1991, and Reactor No. 1 was
decommissioned in 1996. In November 2000, the Ukranian president shut down Reactor No. 3 in an
official ceremony that finally closed the Chernobyl faci
lity. But Reactor No. 4, which was damaged
in the 1986 explosion and fire, is still full of radioactive material
encased inside a concrete barrier, called a sarcophagus, that is aging
badly and needs to be replaced. Water leaking into the reactor carries
r
adioactive material throughout the facility and threatens to seep into
the groundwater. The sarcophagus was designed to last about 30
years, and current designs would create a new shelter with a lifetime
of 100 years. But radioactivity in the damaged react
or would need to
be contained for 100,000 years to ensure safety. That is a challenge
not only for today, but for many generations to come.



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