Monday, April 26, 2004
18 Years Ago Today: The Chernobyl Accident, Part 1 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
view of the near-vertical reactor head of the Chernobyl 4 RBMK-1000, courtesy INSP.comThey say there are no coincidences in life.

Today - on the precise anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster - I received my first completely trashed Amazon.com shipment (which I returned tout suite). I ordered VHS tapes of two ABC Nightline special reports on the incident: Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster (aired April 28th, 1986, when the West first heard of the reactor accident) and Chernobyl Plant - The Aftermath (aired April 22, 1987). Since I didn't pay Chernobyl much mind in 1986, I thought the archival program footage would be fascinating (seeing a young Ted Koppel is always good for a chuckle).

I'm sure it will be when the replacements arrive. The shipment I received today appeared to have been either run over by a car or stepped on by Ruben Studdard: the box was accordioned into a hourglass shape, and I knew it was bad news when I shook it like a Christmas present. Rattle, rattle, ching. The tapes inside were literally smashed into black plastic shards. Sigh. Neeeeext! We'll see if Amazon holds to their reportedly strong returns policy.

And, the news breaks that the Vermont Yankee nuclear power station in my old neck of the woods "lost" two pieces of highly radioactive spent-fuel rod:
From USA Today:
The operators of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant reported the missing pieces Wednesday, saying they were not where they were supposed to be in the large pool used to store fuel rods. One of the missing pieces is about the size of a pencil. The other is about as thick but is 17 inches long.

The spent fuel rods are highly radioactive and would be fatal to anyone who came in contact with them without being properly shielded, Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesman Neil Sheehan said. Spent nuclear fuel could be used by terrorists to construct so-called dirty bombs that would spread deadly radiation with conventional explosives.

"We do not think there is a threat to the public at this point. The great probability is this material is still somewhere in the pool," Sheehan said. The pieces could also have been sent years ago to a testing laboratory or a low-level nuclear waste disposal facility. The pieces were part of a fuel rod that was removed in 1979 from the Vermont Yankee reactor, which is currently shut down for refueling and maintenance.
Burlington, VT's WPTZ-TV today reports that the missing pieces are, well, still missing. I don't live near Burlington these days, but that doesn't make me feel much better. It's like hearing that your downstairs neighbor's pet Black Mamba turned up missing.

So, my research into Chernobyl (which includes scouring the Web and government sites, and the University of Chicago and Harold Washington Libraries) has been slightly delayed. However, for the curious, I have a selection of choice hand-picked links that will provide multi-national insights into the incident, and its continuing aftermath.