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Fri Apr 8, 2022, 06:43 PM Apr 2022

Russian Blunders in Chernobyl: 'They Came and Did Whatever They Wanted.' [View all]

Russian Blunders in Chernobyl: ‘They Came and Did Whatever They Wanted.’

By Andrew E. Kramer

April 8, 2022, 4:43 p.m. ET

CHERNOBYL, Ukraine — As the staging ground for an assault on the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, one of the most toxic places on earth, was probably not the best choice. But that did not seem to bother the Russian generals who took over the site in the early stages of the war. “We told them not to do it, that it was dangerous, but they ignored us,” Valeriy Simyonov, the chief safety engineer for the Chernobyl nuclear site, said in an interview. Apparently undeterred by safety concerns, the Russian forces tramped about the grounds with bulldozers and tanks, digging trenches and bunkers — and exposing themselves to potentially harmful doses of radiation lingering beneath the surface. In a visit to the recently liberated nuclear station, site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster in 1986, wind blew swirls of dust along the roads, and scenes of disregard for safety were everywhere, though Ukrainian nuclear officials say no major radiation leak was triggered by Russia’s monthlong military occupation.

At just one site of extensive trenching a few hundred yards outside the town of Chernobyl, the Russian army had dug an elaborate maze of sunken walkways and bunkers. An abandoned armored personnel carrier sat nearby. The soldiers had apparently camped out for weeks in the radioactive forest. While international nuclear safety experts say they have not confirmed any cases of radiation sickness among the soldiers, the cancers and other potential health problems associated with radiation exposure might not develop until decades later. Mr. Simyonov said that the Russian military had deployed officers from a nuclear, biological and chemical unit, as well as experts from Rosatom, Russia’s state nuclear power company, who consulted with the Ukrainian scientists.

But the Russian nuclear experts seemed to hold little sway over the army commanders, he said. The military men seemed more preoccupied with planning the assault on Kyiv and, after that failed, using Chernobyl as an escape route to Belarus for their badly mauled troops. “They came and did whatever they wanted” in the zone around the station, Mr. Simyonov said. Despite efforts by him and other Ukrainian nuclear engineers and technicians who remained at the site through the occupation, working round-the-clock and unable to leave except for one shift change in late March, the entrenching continued. The earthworks were not the only instance of recklessness in the treatment of a site so toxic it still holds the potential to spread radiation well beyond Ukraine’s borders.

In a particularly ill-advised action, a Russian soldier from a chemical, biological and nuclear protection unit picked up a source of cobalt-60 at one waste storage site with his bare hands, exposing himself to so much radiation in a few seconds that it went off the scales of a Geiger counter, Mr. Simyonov said. It was not clear what happened to the man, he said. The most concerning moment, Mr. Simyonov said, came in mid-March, when electrical power was cut to a cooling pool that stores spent nuclear fuel rods that contain many times more radioactive material than was dispersed in the 1986 catastrophe. That raised the concern among Ukrainians of a fire if the water cooling the fuel rods boiled away, exposing them to the air, though that prospect was quickly dismissed by experts. “They’re emphasizing the worst-case scenarios, which are possible but not necessarily plausible,” said Edwin Lyman, a reactor expert at the Union of Concerned Scientists.


More: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/04/08/world/europe/ukraine-chernobyl.html

An image from the article apparently shows that when the Russian soldiers were occupying Chernobyl and were operating in and around the Exclusion Zone, they were actually digging trenches in some locations to fortify their positions (and were creating what looks like bivouacs). This had been reported on the news with the caveat that this "hadn't been confirmed". Well apparently based on the below, it has -

An abandoned Russian checkpoint in the Exclusion Zone. The camps showed signs of Russian forces digging in soil that could contain radioactivity 1,000 times ambient levels, enough to cause cancers.

Doing that of course disturbs the long-settled radioactive soil that was slowly covered over with old dead vegetation and some new vegetation (interestingly enough being monitored as part of research on the aftermath of meltdowns like what happened there, on surrounding flora and fauna and impacts on the people exposed). This is the natural progression of what happens on the planet where geologists study the "layers" of earth as they compact over hundreds if not thousands or millions of years.

So the just-over-35 years that have passed since the meltdown, is just a blip in time, and it doesn't take much for that stuff to be exposed again and that primary fuel (235U) has a half-life in the hundreds of millions of years.

I am not a nuclear scientist, just a plain old ACS-certified chemist who mostly did analytical chemistry at work as part of my career before retiring (and on occasion dealing with some radioactive substances). But all I can say, just based on that one pic, is that they're fucked. It may take awhile to manifest but...
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Has Russia done anything competently in Ukraine? OAITW r.2.0 Apr 2022 #1
In order: No. We'll never know. And Yes. Hekate Apr 2022 #6
They've been unfortunately successful at competently leveling several cities Blue_Adept Apr 2022 #15
There will be cancer in their futures. herding cats Apr 2022 #2
Nice, cozy little bunker they got there. Wingus Dingus Apr 2022 #3
Putin and the Generals don't care if they die and they will. sheshe2 Apr 2022 #4
Theirs will be very painful deaths. ZonkerHarris Apr 2022 #5
I read, somewhere, that these soldiers mcar Apr 2022 #7
They seem to have a "thing" with radiation and use of it as a personal weapon BumRushDaShow Apr 2022 #8
Ah yes, the Polonium that Putin favors Hekate Apr 2022 #13
Truly ignorant and they will get sick and die. Fools. A bit fitting I suppose...n/t Evolve Dammit Apr 2022 #9
I've watched a few vids of "illegal hikes through the Red Forest," Warpy Apr 2022 #10
From what I have read on and off over the years BumRushDaShow Apr 2022 #14
These hikes have exited the roadway to explore piles of exposed dirt within the forest Warpy Apr 2022 #16
Well these guys BumRushDaShow Apr 2022 #17
This war will be one for the history books! "How To Lose A War For Dumskis And Dumbass" TeamProg Apr 2022 #11
I wish them all the very worst. At this point, as far as I'm concerned, Crunchy Frog Apr 2022 #12
Mother Russia loves her finest. Kid Berwyn Apr 2022 #18
And Russia will continue to do whatever they want without fear of intervention n/t ripcord Apr 2022 #19
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