Wednesday, February 2, 2011

What We Don't Know

The site of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, where one of the world's worst environmental disasters took place in 1986 doesn't have a protective casing around it. Seriously? I wasn't even born when Chernobyl exploded, how is it possible that all this time it hasn't had a permanent casing around the radioactive wreckage?

Chernobyl in 2004. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Radiation contaminated huge swatches of land across Europe in the late 80's due to Chernobyl, and no one ever found it important enough to spend the money to build a permanent casing around the damaged nuclear fuel rods. How is that possible?

Twenty five years after the Chernobyl explosion the money needed to put a protective casing around the damaged nuclear fuel rods hasn't been raised. The existing protective casing was intended to be only temporary, and won't be a permanent solution to the radiation problem. A permanent structure has been under construction, but money to build it is going to run out before it is completed.

Countries all over the world have pledged money to build the containment structure, with European countries leading with the most donations. I understand that we are currently in an economic crisis, but how have 25 years passed without enclosing the radioactive ruins becoming a priority? This should have been done long before the world experienced its recent economic downturn.

This story has me thinking about all the things we don't know. I never would have thought that there wasn't a permanent structure around Chernobyl. It wouldn't have even occurred to me to find out if there was one because its the sort of thing I would just assume had been taken care of. I can't help but wonder what other issues are just never publicized...scary things to think about.


  1. Chernobyl is a fascinating and haunting subject, isn't it? It would be interesting to compare this with what remains of Three Mile Island here in the US. But I would have liked more of an explanation at the top of this piece, I think, more about the 25th anniversary, more about the BBC story in question so that I better understood the post itself.

  2. Thank you for the advice Deb, I'll be sure to implement your suggestions in my next post and give adequate background.

  3. I had a hunch about this but i'm glad you followed up and posted something on this. The issue stands today though, that getting near that reactor to build a protective barrier is really dangerous. Something tells me today that workers rights might be a little more thought of today than in comparison to after the disaster when workers were handling reactor core graphite with just gloves and a t-shirt.

  4. Thanks Eric, I'm definitely hoping to do another follow up on Chernobyl this spring on the actual 25th anniversary (incorporating some of Deb's comments too!) I don't know too much about nuclear radioactivity but I can definitely see how current protocols for handling the ruins would far surpass what was in place back then.

  5. A small correction - Chernobyl is in the Ukraine