If you haven`t seen this site, look at what`s happening in Chernobyl today. Elena is a real character. Her other site, The Serpent`s Wall, is worth a visit, dealing with metal detector hunting on the battlefields around Kiev.
I have to second this; she has a great read about Chernobyl, and her data is quite accurate, as far as I can tell.
Chernobyl often makes me wonder about pebble bed reactors, the planned "next generation" of nuclear reactors. While they don't have an issue in which moderation remains constant while cooling decreases as water boils to steam (as in graphite moderated reactors like Chernobyl), pebble bed reactors share two common features: They do use graphite as a moderator, and they have no containment structure (like kept three mile island from being far worse than it was).
While pebble bed reactors are designed to have the pellets not be capable of reaching temperatures high enough to cause meltdown (in a rather ingenous way - they get larger the hotter they get, which increases their surface area and decreases their reaction rate), if a graphite fire were to occur (due to steam or air getting into the main chamber, and bad luck), and the fire retardation system failed (due to some failure of redundancy or whatnot), it could be another Chernobyl.
It kinda scares me... I wish there was a way to take graphite out of the picture alltogether. Nuclear grade graphite isn't supposed to burn; however, as we saw in Chernobyl, it certainly is *possible*. China is planing to build a ton of PBMRs to meet their expanding power needs.
Hi, Rei, as I understand it, the PBRs are helium cooled to avoid the dangers of water, and since helium doesn`t become radioactive in the event of a meltdown (Wikipedia), the chances of a blowout causing widespread contamination are reduced. With China planning on implementing 1000 PBRs in the future, let`s hope they get it right.
Elena's information and photography are thoroughly accurate. The town of Pripyat (her "Ghost Town") is only the largest and most famous of the dozens of towns and villages that were evacuated following the disaster. I worked for a tad over two and a half years in Ukraine. One of the communities I worked with was Slavutych, a town that was built on the edge of the Exclusion Zone to house ChNPP workers evacuated from Pripyat. The emotional scars of the explosion and its aftermath are still very visible. About 1200 residents of Slavutych still work at the plant, even after its final closure (security, engineering, etc). There is an international radiology institute in Slavutych, and a number of leading US institutes and universities are assisting in studies - everything from what's going on inside the sarcophogas - which is scary; as late as 1991 a neutron spike on the monitors showed the potential for a self-sustaining reaction starting - to "radioecology" in the exclusion zone. Fascinating but uniquely dangerous work.
Elena is a gutsy lady (or insane, IMO) to visit the highly radioactive restricted area around the plant and in Pripyat. Although she seems to understand the danger, I'm wondering how much whole-body radiation exposure she's accumulated. If any of you ever get to Kyiv, the Chernobyl Museum provides even more information and stark photography of the event and its aftermath. Worth a visit.
Anyway, my comments tried to show that there is still a lot of attention being paid to the disaster and its effects in Ukraine and internationally. It may be off the skyline in the US, but it is an ever-present ghost at the feast in Ukraine.
Elena says her father is a nuclear physicist, but I don`t remember if he is associated with the Chernobyl area. One would hope he has provided sufficient warning of the dangers involved. But, I suppose, like the long-term exposure to depleted uranium in Iraq,we might have to wait and see what the future brings to the Ukraine.