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Chelyabinsk-40 – Russia's other nuclear disaster (thescreamonline.com)
47 points by chris_wot 5 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 49 comments

In case you are wondering if this is real, Wikipedia page about this event: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kyshtym_disaster

Thanks for this - something even more astounding is this document:


"About 100 kilometres from Sverdlovsk, a high-way sign warned drivers not to stop for the next 20 or 30 kilometres and to drive through at maximum speed."

Fascinating and scary.

Seems like it wasn't great even before any accident.

"Initially Mayak was dumping high-level radioactive waste into a nearby river, which flowed to the river Ob, flowing further down to the Arctic Ocean. All six reactors were on Lake Kyzyltash and used an open-cycle cooling system, discharging contaminated water directly back into the lake"


The same approach was originally used at Hanford in the US.[1]

I've been on a couple of tours at Hanford, and the guides told us that the Soviet weapons programme was a carbon-copy of the one in the US - just scaled up, with many more plutonium-production reactors - so it's not surprising that they made the same mistake about the cooling.

[1] http://large.stanford.edu/courses/2017/ph241/buttinger1/docs... - pages 9-10

My favorite (for certain values of “favorite”) was the British Windscale reactor, which was air cooled and just vented out a big smoke stack. Predictably, it caught fire and turned into a major disaster. One guy’s insistence on installing filters in the chimney, over the objections of many others that it was pointless, prevented it from being a Chernobyl-scale event.

The whole thing is a great lesson in how “obvious” things we take for granted today, like using a sealed cooling system in nuclear reactors, or keeping waste in containers, were ideas that had to be developed through error-prone processes.

This wasn't done because the people who built these things didn't know what they were doing and what the consequences were.

Not credible. The dangers of radiation exposure were fairly well understood. I think it's more like they were under extreme pressure from governent and military interests during the cold war to just "get it done" and safety was a secondary concern.

Especially in the USSR where they were using prison labor for a lot of the nastier work.

The dangers of acute exposure were well understood. The long term consequences much less so, as well as the many ways things could go wrong to cause exposure in the first place.

That era is full of examples of terrible human damage done because people didn’t really get the consequences of pollution. These are mostly special just because the pollution was radioactive

The consequences of long-term exposure were also known, perhaps not as well as now, but I think it's inaccurate to suggest this sort of thing was done out of ignorance, rather than expedience (and general disregard for human life). This isn't something like someone eventually noticing DDT was decimating bird populations or that lead from leaded gasoline was getting into everything.

I think your misreading of what I'm saying is what's not particularly credible.

There are weirdly similar signs on smaller roads in southeastern New Mexico.

Really, in what sense is this an event?


Are there photos anywhere of the underground city mentioned in this writeup? It sounds amazing, but I've been unable to find any - just the surface-level city.

Link to the documentary referenced in the article, "The Most Contaminated Spot on the Planet."


If this is the "other" disaster, then what was the first one? You definitely don't mean Chornobyl, because it's not in Russia.

That is also a pet peeve of mine that even respectable journalists that should know better make: saying Russia when they clearly mean USSR.

It's fairly common, although I agree they ought to do better. It seems to be partially due to the fact that Russia was such a dominant part of the USSR, and partly because the USSR was more or less the continuation of the Russian Empire, which was often referred to as just "Russia."

It's not unlike how people (not from the Netherlands) often call the Netherlands "Holland", which is only a part of it, or call the UK "Britain".

Good examples. In the US, it’s fairly common to use “England” to refer to the UK, which really weirds me out.

See 'synecdoche'.

Russia was the important part of the USSR.

The “R” in USSR may as well have stood for Russia ;-)

But it didn't.

He’s quite correct, sorry about that - it should be the USSR.


This is so off topic. Could you please not post like this?



We should bankrupt and leave people untreated to make sure those government doctors don’t hide nuclear experiments from us. Go freedom!

You realize this is the Soviet Union, right? Only 15 years before this they were wrapping up systematic extermination of millions of people and had just executed most of their army officers (just in Time for the German invasion) to satiate Stalin’s paranoia. A few villagers in the provinces barely registered.

Yes, because mature democracies are very similar to the Soviet Union, and no private healthcare company has ever withheld information or mislead a patient about anything.

If only the Soviet Union had had private healthcare these people would all have been fine!

Here in the UK you have a choice on whether to rely on the government or not - you are perfectly free to go private, and plenty of people do. In the US you do not have an equivalent choice.

So many Americans do not understand this, and think that universal health care means the government imposes a monopoly.

If you choose private healthcare, are your taxes reduced accordingly?

No, because that would defeat the purpose of having public healthcare: a universal safety net for those who for some reason lose out on private healthcare.

But because private healthcare has to compete with public healthcare in countries with such a dual system, the price for private insurance is driven very low, so it isn't as disastrously expensive as in the United States, for example, and demanding a large tax refund for this would seem extreme.

I'm not debating whether public healthcare is a good thing.

Just specifically objecting to claims that it's not a monopoly. If everyone pays in, it is.

That doesn't negate every upside.


Ok. So there's choice. But is it really not a monopoly if paying in is compulsory, whether you use it or not?

No. Because it's not - well, it wasn't until recently, anyway - run as a for-profit business.

And also because public health insurance is a relatively low, fixed cost. It's not a variable cost that can bankrupt you if you ever need to use it, like health insurance in the US.

A monopoly is exploitative. A public service can't be exploitative - it can only be inefficient.

In fact the British NHS provides some of the most efficient cost outcomes in the world.

It's impossible to overstate how incredibly beneficial this is, especially for startups and entrepreneurs.

In the UK I literally do not have to worry about the cost of health care. There are some relatively small employment taxes to pay, but that's all there is to it.

"A monopoly is exploitative"

I think that's the part where we're misunderstanding each other. To me, a monopoly isn't inherently exploitative.

The NHS looks like a monopoly to me. Whether it's a net good is a different discussion.

Would you say that Social Security has a monopoly on retirement saving, or HUD has a monopoly on housing?

You get social security benefits back, regardless. It would be comparable if you took away my benefits once I opted for a 401k. I guess it's somewhat comparable to those that use NHS for most things, but supplement with private. But social security isn't enough to retire on for most, so "marketshare" isn't dominant. It sounds like NHS is enough for most healthcare needs.

HUD would be comparable, if almost everyone qualified for it. They don't. A monopoly implies dominant marketshare.

Why would SS need to take away your benefits to be comparable? It’s not like government health systems kick you out if you ever go to a private hospital.

Poor analogy on my part. They are different in that Social Security doesn't provide for most retirement needs. Therefore, it doesn't dominate the market. And, so people from many income brackets choose other forms of retirement to supplement.

I suspect only a very few supplement NHS since it's comprehensive.

That market dominance makes it a monopoly.

Edit: I disagree with the conclusion below. A compulsory deduction that's large enough to address all your needs for a particular service creates a monopoly.

The issue just seems to be that the word sounds "bad" to those that like the NHS system.

If social security deducted enough that it resulted in a reasonable living retirement plan, it would be similar. It would make any other activity in the retirement market very narrow and mostly for rich people.

Seems like that also makes your original question irrelevant: if what matters is market dominance, then it doesn't matter whether your taxes are reduced if you opt out.

In any case, it seems to me that the important thing about a monopoly is most people having no choice. Standard Oil was a monopoly because most people had no choice but to buy their oil from that company. AT&T was a monopoly because that was the only company you could get phone service from.

Market dominance is a cause of this key thing, not the key thing itself. A company might have a "monopoly" with 80% of the market because the nature of that market means that 20% isn't enough to provide most customers with a choice. On the other hand, a company might not have a "monopoly" with 95% of the market in a market where scale is less important and 5% of the market is enough to give every customer a choice, and customers choose the dominant player because they want it.

Seems to me that the situation with health care in places like the UK is in that second category. The government system is dominant not because people have no choice, but because people don't want to pay for private care.

That’s most definitely not the moral I took from this.

I suppose we can also point to Fukushima as an example of why it's dangerous to rely on private companies for health care?

Jesus fucking christ. Why is this the "other" disaster, it's much, much worse in every aspect.

Probably because it was fairly successfully covered up for decades, whereas Chernobyl had the world watching within days.

Chernobyl isn't in Russia, although the writer probably meant the USSR.

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