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There's an amazing documentary about this that contains a lot of footage of the actual incident and cleanup called the "Battle of Chernobyl".

http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/the-battle-of-chernobyl/

Things that still haunt me: the helicopter pilots who put the initial fires out flew in 120-180C temperatures and pretty much all died of radiation. And the sequence that starts about here:

https://youtu.be/ezohqY-vg4s?t=3430

Where they are picking up radioactive materials by hand and throwing it off the roof next to the reactor because the robots they were trying to use all break down. Even 1 hour of exposure was deadly so they rotated through shifts, and the guys who did it were called "Bio Robots"




One of the most impressive documentaries I've ever seen is "Chernobyl 3828"[1]. It is about the 3828 "liquidators" (cleanup crew) - euphemistically called the "bio robots" - that had to clean up the worst section of roof above the reactor. Maximum allowed dose was two minutes exposure to that section the roof.

It has some of the same footage as the sequence in your link to t=3430, but there is a key difference: Chernobyl 3828 is about the people. The psychology of the cleanup was complicated. Some people ran while others faced the danger and accepted a "red badge of courage" because if they didn't, someone else would have to go in their place.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FfDa8tR25dk


My uncle was a driver in Chernobyl cleanup works. There was no question asked if he agreed or not, the soldiers simply came in the middle of a night, told him to pack things, took him having no clue what's going on or where he's going and left a wife with two young children in panic. Only the next day his wife received a message that he's ok and "somewhere in Ukraine". Thanks to his driver's profession, he avoided going inside the reactor building, what probably saved his health/life. Also, there was no official announcement of disaster until after few days later.


I'm curious, what was your father's doing before then? Surely if "they" needed drivers, they wouldn't need to go all the way to another region to get them. You say being a driver saved his life, but it could be that it actually was what put him in harm's way...?

Or did they have lists of "expendables" for such emergencies, which would have been sorted by profession directly on-situ? Surely it wasn't completely random...

EDIT: hey downvoters, these are simple questions that help paint a better picture.


It was my uncle, not father. There's no way to know for fact as everything was done in secrecy and many archives were destroyed or are still locked in Russia, but I guess that the list of "expendables" were present for such cases. Some facts that highlights suspicion: 1) he was young (19-20 yo) and recently back from mandatory service in army, so still high in reserve list 2) he was not a member of Communist party, nor had any influential relatives 3) he was working as a truck driver and did not have any other qualifications, so easily replaceable. The fact that he had young children probably didn't bother anybody or made through bureaucratic apparatus in time. According to various sources, few to several thousands of Lithuanians were taken to Chernobyl during few years time (the exact numbers probably will never be known, as most other numbers regarding this disaster) and many of them were not so lucky and had to work inside/near the reactor building itself, so it's hard to speculate what could have been. Though the fact that he was taken with such haste, only few hours after the meltdown, might suggest that they had an emergency for drivers.

"they wouldn't need to go all the way to another region to get them"

It was a common practice for Soviets to get people from far regions to do dirty jobs, because it's easier to hide nasty deeds this way and prevent rumors from spreading. As an example, most of Lithuanians served in far regions of Siberia while at the same time most of soldiers stationed here were from Mongolia and the like.


They did go to other regions, probably because there weren't enough expendable human bodies in Ukraine alone. Altogether at least 600 000 people were involved in the cleanup (I've also seen numbers as high as 1 million.)[1]

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chernobyl_liquidators#Exposure...


Not sure if it's a factor, but it's an age old technique to get people from far away regions to do the dirty work. The locals might understand or have opinions - those from far away have little prior knowledge.


> have opinions

Not much of an issue in the Soviet Union, though.


I met one on a commuter train in Belarus in early 1990s. A pale shell of a human being, crumbling from cancer. Wish I could tell you he still had spirits high despite imminent death but he didn't. Pretty sure he's not even counted on Wikipedia in the accident death toll.



Wow, the differences in the number of victims from different sources are immense:

"- According to Vyacheslav Grishin of the Chernobyl Union, the main organization of liquidators, "25,000 of the Russian liquidators are dead and 70,000 disabled, about the same in Ukraine, and 10,000 dead in Belarus and 25,000 disabled", which makes a total of 60,000 dead (10% of the 600 000, liquidators) and 165,000 disabled.[6]

- A UNSCEAR report places the total confirmed deaths from radiation at 64 as of 2008.[citation needed]

- Estimates of the number of deaths potentially resulting from the accident vary enormously: the World Health Organization (WHO) suggest it could reach 4,000"

According to the WHO report from 2006 (which is stupidly in the form that can be neither searched nor copy-pasted, I guess intentionally!) 600,000 persons did receive the official certificates that they worked as the liquidators there: around 200,000 people worked during the first two years, others afterwards. See page 2.

http://www.who.int/ionizing_radiation/chernobyl/who_chernoby...

The same report on page 107:

"The RNMDR data indicate that 4.6% of the Russian emergency workers fatalities that occurred during the 12 years following the accident can be attributed to radiation-induced diseases."


About the un-searchable pdf: you can use OCRfeeder to fairly easily OCR pdfs that use such obfuscation techniques. It processes around ten pages per minute for me, so best get a cup of tea. Unfortunately uploading an OCRed copy would probably violate the WHO's copyright :(


This is very dense... wow.


That's a good documentary. Haven't seen it before.

I remembered distinctly when it happened, well when it was anounced on TV on evening news. It was really mentioned in passing -- oh by the way, there was incident at Chernobyl, a quick flash or some white smoke coming out in the distance and then ... sports.

My dad knew it was something more than that and said something like "Oh shit, this could be really bad". People have learned when they published something as small in the news, they would multiply by some factor to get an idea how bad it really was.

Then something really bizare happened. Refuges had started to stream into different cities. And for some strange reason, they were shunned. Others somehow thought these survivors were contaminated, cursed, builty or what have you. So instead of being embraced and helped, they found themselves trying to hide who they are and where they came from.


"Then something really bizare happened. Refuges had started to stream into different cities. And for some strange reason, they were shunned. Others somehow thought these survivors were contaminated, cursed, builty or what have you. So instead of being embraced and helped, they found themselves trying to hide who they are and where they came from."

There is an excellent book that tackles this very subject named "All that is Solid Melts Into Air" by Darragh McKeon. I highly recommend the book and it's not too long - 200 pages give or take.

It chronicles a bit of the disaster as well as the lives of some people that live near it as well as rescue workers called in to respond to it.


I wonder if the "shunning" might have been caused by civil defence training which might have taught people to avoid people from fall-out contaminated areas unless they had been decontaminated?

Obviously not directly applicable but in a crisis it might be the kind of mistake people would make.


Thanks for the suggestion. I ordered the book from Amazon.


Not so bizarre unfortunately. The hibakusha, the survivors of the nuclear bombings in Japan, still suffer discrimination, as do their children. [1]

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hibakusha#Discrimination


Considering from the outside it just looks like people shovelling rocks, that's one of the more harrowing clips I've ever seen.....

Thanks for that!


There seems to be something wrong with this documentary - or else my understanding of physics is flawed. It claims that had the corium dropped into the subbasement water, it would have produced a multi-megaton nuclear explosion, and even illustrated the point with film footage of a classic mushroom cloud. That can't possibly be correct, can it? Perhaps improved neutron moderation would lead to another ugly steam explosion... but how do you get a full-scale nuclear detonation out of an unsorted pile of material?

Either I'm about to get schooled on physics or I pretty much can't trust anything said in this documentary (cool film footage notwithstanding).


There's also a good documentary about the lead up to various nuclear power issues in the Adam Curtis documentary 'A Is For Atom' :

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pandora's_Box_%28TV_series%29#...




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