Chernobyl Anniversary – when will we come to closure?

UPDATE: I don’t think the answers are technical. I think the answers lie in the realm of cooperative activity and open communication when it comes to developing advanced sources of power.

Although it may seem contra-intuitive, the answer will be more communication, not less.

We might recognize a common factor in all recent disasters – secrecy and lack of information were the root cause, and solutions were found only when open communication was established.

This originally appeared as a conclusion. It is more useful as an introductory summary of what I found in this additional material.

UPDATE:  Now you can tour Chernobyl and write your own story.

Chernobyl Anniversary – April 26, 2004. Kiev, Ukraine – Associated Press — The former Soviet Union marked the eighteenth anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Hundreds of Ukrainians filled a small chapel in the capital of Kiev at 1:23 am, the exact time of the explosion. Nearly a thousand more gathered at a Chernobyl memorial statue in Kiev.

What is not mentioned are the many thousands of survivors who are linking up and finding out the true magnitude of the burden they and their children carry into the future. The entire tale has still not been told although eminent bodies like the UN have tried for some time to close the books on this incident.

Uncovering the entire story is not an effort to find culprits, or to assign blame. That has been done many times over. The real story is about the brave people who tried to help clean up after the disaster and the efforts by some survivors to capture the magnitude of the disaster and preserve its memory for future generations.

Thanks to Achilles Running , I found poems, more pictures of Chernobyl, and two books that filled in some of the missing pieces for me.

The Chernobyl Poems of Lyubov Sirota has links to her poetry and to her pictures of Chernobyl from 1998 and 2000.

Working as director of a writing program for children near the Chernobyl Atomic Energy Station, she had never written poetry before April 25th, 1986. Seeking a breath of fresh air in the middle of that night, she went out on to her balcony in the city of Pripyat and watched the Chernobyl nuclear reactor explode in front of her.

In the days that followed, she and her son grew gravely ill from heavy doses of radioactive contamination. To express her grief and rage, she turned to writing poems, and collected them in a small book entitled Burden.

It was published in Kiev, the city (now in Ukraine) where she had fled along with the other refugees from Pripyat. She later became involved in documentary films about the disaster and went to work as a film editor at the A. P. Dovzhenko Film Studio in Kiev.

Two of her poems that moved me greatly are: AN APPEAL TO THE CITIZENS OF THE EARTH
and her masterpiece:
RADIOPHOBIA, which concludes with this poignant line:

Radiophobia might cure
the world of carelessness, satiety, greed,
bureaucratism and lack of spirituality,
so that we don’t, through someone’s good will, mutate into non-humankind.

Thanks to Paul Brians of Washington State University for discovering Lyubov Sirota, getting her work translated, and bringing it to the attention of a world-wide audience.

The two books that I liked best were quite different. The first was somewhat technical, but provided a totally absorbing minute-by-minute account of the technical factors involved in the explosion. It is Chernobyl: The Disaster and its Legacy by Graham Young. It also presented a straightforward and unemotional summary of the long term environmental and health effects of the explosion.

The second book was written about the people involved in the disaster. It was Chernobyl: The Ongoing Story of the World’s Deadliest Nuclear Disaster, by Glenn Alan Cheney. It presented a more personal dimension of the events leading up to and following the disaster.

Alexander Kuzma, assistant director, Children of Chernobyl Relief Fund, has written a comment about this book that I cannot improve on:

Mr. Cheney captures the texture and the essence of life in the Chornobyl Zone: the fear, the anger, the despair and sense of betrayal, the ocean of conflicting and disturbing information.

For all this dark humor, Cheney reveals a genuine compassion for the people who have to live with Chornobyl’s legacy day to day.

Most importantly, Cheney shows a genuine commitment to get at the truth that lies buried under all the lies and the secrecy surrounding Cornobyl.

These books, poems and pictures are well worth reading. They should leave you with a better understanding of the problems we face in an increasingly technical world.

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