30 years ago today, a fire started near Pripyat. "The time was 1:23 a.m. The world had changed. But those sleeping just downwind had no idea." The Chernobyl disaster began on April 26th, 1986. [more inside]
It has been created outside of the lab at least five times -- once at the Three Mile Island reactor in 1979, once in Chernobyl in 1986, and three separate times during the Fukushima Daiichi meltdown in 2011. It's made by melting fuel pellets or rods in nuclear reactors, which then assimilate concrete and whatever else they touch, making radioactive "lava." It's called corium, and it remains radioactive for centuries. Artur Korneyev, a dark-humored Kazakhstani nuclear inspector, has a lot of experience with it, especially the "elephant foot" in the Chernobyl sarcophagus. [more inside]
This photographic documentary is not intended to tell the story of the events surrounding the disaster yet again. [...] It is not earthquakes or tsunami that are to blame for the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station, but humans. [...] As in the Chernobyl case, it was a human, not technology, that was mainly responsible for the disaster.
Slavutich was built starting in 1986 to house misplaced inhabitants of Pripyat and the surrounding area of the Chernobyl disaster, including workers of the plant. More modern than many of Ukraine's other cities, it enjoyed a historical high birth rate and standard of living. Since the start of decommissioning of the plant, the city of over 25,000 connected by Chernobyl via railway has lost 2,000 people "and more are following. In 2015, the new sarcophagus over the infamous reactor No. 4 will be finished, further slashing jobs in the exclusion zone. Is Slavutich set to be the final victim of Chernobyl?"(from 1st link) [more inside]
Danny Cooke’s Postcards from Pripyat, Chernobyl summons a lost history of familiar and alien dreams. The drone-mounted camera glides deliberately through the spaces within and above the empty city. The soundtrack is haunting, or “haunting.” We think of drones moving relentlessly forward: into the hidden terrain of surveillance, into the kill zone, into the future. Yet many of the shots point the lens in reverse, effectively pulling back to show first a figure and only then its surroundings. A diving platform with paint peeled away, then the empty pool. A circular emblem, large and sculptural, then the great apartment block on whose roof it sits, visible for miles. Not all shots follow this rule, and not all are taken by drone, but this is the general approach of Danny Cooke’s Postcards From Pripyat, Chernobyl, a three-minute video from last year. It’s quite beautiful. [more inside]
Photographers prowl the streets of Pripyat . ...at each new location we visited, photographers were picking up dolls and books and clothes, draping them across steel-strung beds or sitting them upright on mantelpieces. However in trying to show the truth, these visitors are slowly destroying it. [more inside]
Three albums filled with hundreds of pictures of Pripyat and Chernobyl before and after the disaster.
What zombie trees tell us about the world's worst nuclear disaster: in the abandoned forests around Chernobyl the trees that died in the accident are still standing because all the bacteria and fungi died off and hasn't come back, according to research done by Timothy A. Mousseau.
Twenty-eight years on, the struggle to build a permanent containment building at Chernobyl.
Working conditions inside the mine were appalling. The miners had to crawl around in the hot dark stopes on their knees, bent almost double, working in dreadful conditions gouging out the blue asbestos which was in very thin bands in the hard rock…working conditions in the mill were even more appalling than the mine. Milling was a dry process where the ore was ground down and the fibre then extracted. Conditions were so bad that the men needed flood lights to see through the dust at midday. The men worked in these clouds of asbestos dust for hours on end, when only one minute at such concentrations to blue asbestos fibres would have been enough to cause lung cancer or mesothelioma. [more inside]
Mega Dashboards and Instrument Panels is part two of a collection of interesting and mind-boggling arrays of dials and switches. Part one, previously.
Nadezhda Korotkaya, 77, a widow who lives alone in her small wooden house on the edge of Stary Vyshkov, still remembers the World War II. "The Germans came and went," she said. "But Chernobyl came here to stay." It was 25 years ago today that reactor number four at the Chernobyl power plant exploded, following an emergency shutdown (detailed recounting of the disaster on Wikipedia). A memorial was held in Kiev, Ukraine, this morning for the liquidators who were the first human responders, with a bell struck at the exact moment of the Chernobyl explosion on April 26, 1986. See also: a look back, with The Big Picture. [more inside]
How do you clean up a massive nuclear disaster? With 800,000 people, 45 seconds at a time. The Liquidators, Chernobyl's "biorobot" cleanup crew: Part 1, Part 2. [more inside]
Looking for a winter vacation get-away? How about going to Chernobyl? "Tours to Chernobyl are extreme tourism, plenty of curious people are looking for extreme adventures," he said. previously
Inside Chernobyl Sarcophagus (1996). Deep inside the sarcophagus, a remarkable group of Soviet physicists is at work in levels of radiation that would be considered almost suicidal in the West. [more inside]
Cornelia Hesse-Honegger paints watercolours of mutated insects from radioactively contaminated areas in Ukraine, Switzerland, the United States, and Europe. She has recently published a scientific article incorporating these paintings (5 MB PDF). site also available in German
Silent spring : Deep in the radioactive bowels of the smashed Chernobyl reactor, a strange new lifeform is blooming.
Gamma rays make certain microscopic fungi grow faster Researchers have found that melanin—the same pigment that's the natural ultraviolet filter in people's skin—might enable some fungi to harness the energy of gamma radiation as well as to shield themselves from it. [more inside]
The Chernobyl exclusion zone has been mythologized as a sort of wildlife garden of eden with storks, bears, birds, wolfs, pigs etc.. taking over in the absence of man. However it turns out the reports are anecdotal, there have been no formal scientific studies - until now. According to this study of birds, both the number of species and abundance of individuals declined with increasing radiation levels. For example, the most contaminated sites had about two-thirds fewer birds than those with normal levels of radiation. Chernobyl is far from a wildlife paradise, “This was a big surprise to us,” biologist Dr. Mousseau of the University of South Carolina said. “We had no idea of the impact.”
A striking essay with photos documenting a visit to the Chernobyl exclusion zone. Mark Resnicoff, a database programmer and amateur photographer, visited Chernobyl and took a schwack of atmospheric photos. This reminded me of a set of slightly-controversial Chernobyl photos from 2004. Wikipedia provides a little context on KiddofSpeed, the photographer in question with an awesome Engrishesque nickname.
Don't Eat (or Drink) The Yellow Snow!
note: it is our surmise that that this snow is probably not toxic. trust us. we're russia.
note: it is our surmise that that this snow is probably not toxic. trust us. we're russia.
Radiating Places. Twenty years after the Chernobyl disaster, seven artists from Moscow, Minsk, and Berlin travelled to the desolate, restricted area to commemorate the catastrophe.
This is a stunning set of photographs by Robert Knoth, taken in the regions of Mayak, Semipalatinsk, Chernobyl, and Tomsk-7. [via]
The BBC reports that twenty years on "the exclusion zone around the Chernobyl nuclear power station is teeming with life." Lynx, eagle owl, wild boars, horses, wolves—even signs of bears which haven't been seen here in centuries. British scientist and environmentalist James Lovelock (recently discussed here) speculates whether "small volumes of nuclear waste from power production should be stored in tropical forests and other habitats in need of a reliable guardian against their destruction by greedy developers." Lovelock describes Chernobyl as "a nasty accident that took 45 lives." This article in the New Scientist claims that that the death toll may ultimately reach 60,000.
"because once you found a relic you can't stop digging, you know, it is real, it was there in time of a great event and you know that next item can be this special one that worth you efforts..."
The Serpeant's Wall - a new photo essay about the tragic history of Kiev during The War. From the same motorcycle-riding woman whose Chernobyl photos we've discussed before.
Chernobyl survivor interview - Over at the New Scientist site Alexander Yuvchenko (one of the few surviving workers at the site) talks about the day Chernobyl went kablooie. "...we walked outside. What we saw was terrifying. Everything that could be destroyed had been. The entire water coolant system was gone. The right-hand side of the reactor hall had been completely destroyed, and on the left the pipes were just hanging." "From where I stood I could see a huge beam of projected light flooding up into infinity from the reactor. It was like a laser light, caused by the ionisation of the air. It was light-bluish, and it was very beautiful. I watched it for several seconds. If I'd stood there for just a few minutes I would probably have died on the spot..."
She arranged the flowers, which were grown in radioactive soil in an experimental greenhouse.. Photographs of Chernobyl 1994-1998.
Is Elena another Kaycee? (Scroll down to posts by "dizzy') Someone who claims to have knowledge of the Chernobyl Dead Zone posted to a number of motorcycle forums claiming that Elena coloured the truth quite a bit with her highly publicized Chernobyl motorcycle trip. [More inside]
"People had to leave everything, from photos of their grandparents to cars." One brave (or foolish, depending on your view) girl, and her Kawasaki motorcycle take a tour through the Chernobyl "dead zone". An astounding an eyewitness photo-essay of chernobyl today. (Note that the first link is a google cache, but subsequent pages are available from the site when you click the "next page" link...Angelfire, go figure.)
Motorcycling through Pripyat and the Chernobyl Dead Zone: A Photojournal of Elena and her Kawasaki ZZR 1100 travelling in the desolate area around Chernobyl and Pripyat.
Tarkovsky's Stalker coming as video game in 2003. I always wondered how long it would take for a more artistically-informed bunch to come to the $18B/year video game market (bigger than Hollywood). Will our generation have its video-game counterparts to Faulkner and Fitzgerald? A David Foster Wallace or Don Delillo authored game? Are there other video games that can stand up as "Art?"