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WillyT Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Apr-04-11 08:18 PM
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At Chernobyl, A Warning For Japan - WaPO
At Chernobyl, a warning for Japan
By Will Englund - WaPo
Sunday, April 3, 9:05 PM



CHERNOBYL, Ukraine Forbidding under a cold, gray sky, the dead atomic power plant here is a living enterprise.

The explosion that struck 25 years ago this month, in the worlds worst nuclear accident, set in motion a major undertaking that today bears on the life of the entire country. It is a model, or a warning, for what could await Japan. The crisis at the Fukushima nuclear plant will at some point be contained but then there begins a national project from which there is no exit strategy.

Though the turbines are still, and cranes dangle above two unfinished reactors, just as they have for the past 25 years, too radioactive to be moved anywhere else, this is not a ghost town. Trains arrive on freshly laid tracks, workshops in an un-Soviet shade of blue dot the grounds and steam billows from the chimney of a new gas-fired heating plant that sends hot water throughout the complex.

About 3,000 people work here, in decontaminated areas, maintaining and decommissioning the plant. An additional 4,000 work nearby, providing security in the 19-mile-deep exclusion zone from which residents were evacuated and where entry is possible only with a permit. (The Fukushima zone has a radius of 12 miles.) Exclusion zone workers also handle water-management and forest-fire-suppression duties, part of the never-ending effort to keep contamination from spreading.

And beyond the exclusion zone lies the vast social structure of evacuees, former emergency workers and their families, farmers whose dwindling villages are contaminated but habitable survivors, many in ill health, battling an implacable government for the care and assistance they believe they deserve.

I so much hope the Japanese liquidators will be treated better than we were, said Yuri Andreyev, who was a chief engineer at Chernobyl and now heads the Chernobyl Union, an umbrella group of advocacy organizations.



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