Half-Lives: The Chernobyl Workers Now


by VQR


Released to coincide with the Fall 2011 issue of VQR, Maisie Crow’s original short film introduces us to the city of Slavutych and its residents—survivors of the Chernobyl disaster and the workers still dismantling the plant.

One thought on “Half-Lives: The Chernobyl Workers Now

  1. I was working in a research laboratory in southwest Germany when the nuclear reactor in Chernobyl blew up. 3 days later we were concerned about the radioactive fallout after it was announced that a change in the wind direction would bring the cloud westward towards southern Germany. It was said that the radiation released was 2000 times greater than when the atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. Sure enough, in the morning, radiation levels greater than background were reported in Munich. Later, we took a Geiger monitor outside and found many surfaces to be contaminated. The tarmac surface of the road and the roofs of cars seemed to be the worst, with some surfaces giving readings of up to 60 counts per second, that is about 20 fold higher than normal background. We measured the roof of one car that had driven from Munich that morning and found it to be especially hot. These were levels that would have been classed as contamination inside the lab, for which decontamination procedures would have been applied. We wondered whether we ought to take iodine tablets to displace the radioactive iodine that would accumulate in our thyroid glands. I drove home that evening with my car windows closed and the ventilation shut off, and slept that night with my bedroom windows shut, despite the warm spring weather. The next day the radiation levels were still above normal, but not as high, so we felt we could breathe again. The Bundesgesuntheitsministerium of course was saying that there was no danger to health. In Kiev the population was advised not to go out of doors, to keep doors and windows closed and to wash their vegetables. In Germany, all imports of vegetables from eastern block countries were stopped. The whole business left us feeling quite uncomfortable, yet we were 1500 miles distant from the source, so we felt sorry for the people of Ukraine.

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