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Chernobyl on ice

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    I just finished reading "Midnight in Chernobyl", by Adam Higginbotham. It's 380 pages long, but that does not cover the 158 pages of notes that follows the book itself.

    According to his research, there were three main causes to the disaster. The first was operator error, the second was the fact that the design of the reactor was faulty, and the third (and most important) is that the Russian government, in its haste to finish the project, forced the folks in charge of construction to use inferior materials and to forgo safety checks, in order to finish the project on schedule.

    So, a WTF moment hit me this week when I read an article that said the the Russians are planning to build a FLOATING nuclear plant:

    The huge vessel, the world's only floating nuclear power plant, has left its dock in the Russian port of Murmansk and is on its way to the arctic town of Pevek despite opposition from environmental groups. The 144 meters long and 30 meters wide vessel, named the Akademik Lomonosov after the 18th-century Russian scientist, houses two nuclear reactors. It will be towed 6,000 kilometers to the remote Siberian region of Chukotka, about 86 kilometers from the US state of Alaska, after leaving the port on Friday. If you are good at math, you'll quickly discover that 86 kilometers is roughly 54 miles from Alaska.

    The floating vessel will be the northernmost nuclear plant in the world, and will also power the extraction of natural resources in the region when it starts operations next year.

    During the Chernobyl disaster, there was genuine concern that there could have been a genuine "China moment" in which the reactor could have melted into the earth and contaminated ground water for miles. However, due to the heroic efforts of a few scientists, that catastrophe was avoided. The Russians eventually built a containment chamber around the thing, a dangerous undertaking in itself, but the world is safe - for now. In 2016, the original shell was augmented by an even larger cover called the New Safe Confinement.

    If the new barge malfunctions, though, large portions of the Arctic Sea will become contaminated, and that is NOT a cheerful thought.

    Hot on the heals of the announcement of the floating nuclear power plant were two other WTF news items:

    1) In July, the Ukrainian government started OFFICIAL tours of the areas around the failed power plant.

    (If you think THAT'S crazy, consider that fact the the United States government, in 1990, approved the resettlement of the Love Canal are in New York).

    2) If you are a vodka drinker, you'll be interested to know you will soon be able to buy vodka that was made from rye from the Chernobyl exclusion zone. After distilling it and conducting tests, James Smith, a University of Portsmouth environmental scientist and part of the group, told CBS News partner BBC they concluded that their product is "no more radioactive than any other vodka."


    I'm sure that this stuff, once it hits the market, will receive "glowing' reports from vodka critics.

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    What could possibly go wrong ?

    I am no expert on this but my initial concern was what unexpected events could make this horrible ? 2 minutes on Google advised that Tsunamis hit the US (admitting it's incredibly rare) and the most likely states include Alaska.

    A Tsunami would be horrible. A Tsunami followed by a nearly endless supply of thick Radioactive waste washing up onto Alaskan shores would be 1000 times worse.

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    Call in the vodka police.

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    On this day in 1949, the Soviets detonated their first atomic bomb.

    What's noteworthy about the story is that the Soviet physicists who worked on the bomb were honored for the achievement based on the penalties they would have suffered had the test failed. Those who would have been executed by the Soviet government if the bomb had failed to detonate were honored as “Heroes of Socialist Labor,” and those who would have been merely imprisoned were given “The Order of Lenin,” a slightly less prestigious award.

    Both of these awards were also mentioned in the book "Midnight in Chernobyl", which explains why the Russians were so eager to complete the nuclear reactor on time.

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    I would suspect a lot of all major projects reach a too big to fail status being operated by career people owing their livelihood to the project. The concept of forging on is illuminated by the term and condition “Whistle Blower”. First it applies a negative term to the uncovering of contradicting information. Second it shows that people trying to do the right thing need protection.