# Fate of Chernobyl's vehicle graveyard

• Chernobyl
2002-08:

Greg Bernhardt

2012-04:

2013-07: everything "disappeared"

Yes, you see it right. Our former president's gang stole and sold even *radioactive* steel.

Gold Member
2013-07: everything "disappeared"
View attachment 100820

Yes, you see it right. Our former president's gang stole and sold even *radioactive* steel.
The steel itself is not radioactive even if fission isotopes have been dispersed on it, and those isotopes can be seperated, mostly with detergents if someone takes the trouble. Also, what source indicates the vehicles have been sold into the steel market as opposed to being sequestered somewhere?

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what source indicates the vehicles have been sold into the steel market as opposed to being sequestered somewhere?

Common sense. The only plausible reason the vehicles aren't there anymore is that someone found a way to make money selling them.

At 500% enlargement it looks more like somebody has edited them out.

I think it's just sand. The entire area has sandy soils (this also explains why local forests are predominantly pines, pines grow well on such soils). Here is another photo from that area.

jim hardy
Gold Member
Common sense. The only plausible reason the vehicles aren't there anymore is that someone found a way to make money selling them.
Not at all. Much of the fuel-containing materials (FCM) were eventually removed from reactor 4, and the reactor site enclosed. This wasn't all done because a way was found to make money selling off contaminated material. Maybe somebody has indeed spirited those vehicles into the scrap metal market, and maybe they've been buried/cleaned by the same kind of people that responsibly sealed the reactor cite.

jim hardy
Gold Member
Dearly Missed
I think it's just sand.

Okay, It's possible I'm seeing where a bulldozer has covered up the junk with white sand
but you have to admit it sure looks like brush strokes retouching the painting, turning the junkpiles white and featureless.

Where'd you find the pictures ?

but you have to admit it sure looks like brush strokes retouching the painting, turning the junkpiles white and featureless.

By searching the web, I find numerous testimonies that the place really is empty now. It's not a doctored map.

Where'd you find the pictures ?

I made them myself: screenshots of Google Earth. GE has an option to see older maps (View->Historical Imagery).

Maybe somebody has indeed spirited those vehicles into the scrap metal market, and maybe they've been buried/cleaned by the same kind of people that responsibly sealed the reactor cite.

:D :D :D

Open Google Maps and find Chernobyl Zone. See those numerous rectangular-looking gaping holes all over the forest? Must be someone "responsibly cut down and sealed hundreds of square kilometers of contaminated wood" :D :D :D

Gold Member
As to the pipe fitting, it seems more likely to me something was mixed into the casting process. I was on a radioactive decontamination team in the US military, and we were also told hot high pressure water, detergents and elbow grease were effective for removing the contaminants from surfaces; but if the Chernobyl zone steel wasn't decontaminated, and was simply carted off for scrap it could have borne anything into the smelter.

Incidentally, the Chernobyl accident happened when I was stationed in Alaska, where we were always prepared for nuclear attack since bio and chem weapons don't work as well in freezing boreal and arctic environments; but after the Exxon Valdez oil spill all of our Mil-spec hot water pressure washers were carted away to the beaches of Prince William Sound to help with the cleanup effort.

the_emi_guy
I can confirm OP's observation. Just go to Google Earth and search "Chernobyl vehicle graveyard", it takes you right there. Looks like they are either removing, or backfilling a lot of dirt. A lot more white patches are visible now compared to OP's 2013 image. This may indicate some sort of remediation vs. something more nefarious.

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I guess/hope they sandblasted or at least washed the vehicles before removing them. This washing operation might have created sandy areas cleared of vegetation.

Gold Member
Dearly Missed
As to the pipe fitting, it seems more likely to me something was mixed into the casting process.
Yes, if i recall correctly it was one of those sources highway engineers use to measure the density of asphalt by gamma backscatter.
Per the article some of the steel made its way into rebar, too.
Co60 halflife is only 5.3 years so it's a lot less active now, 2016 - 1983 = 33 years so it's been 6.2 half-lives
## \frac{1}{2}##6.2 = 0.013 , 98.7% of it is gone.

Well nikkkom , knowing how things happen in East and somewhat also in eastern Europe , I wouldn't be surprised if someone really took those metals and wood without properly cleaning or inspecting contamination.Although to say "former presidents gang" seems a bit troll like to me.first of all individuals and all kinds of homeless folks have been dismantling and stealing Chernobyl site metal for years , the scrapyard radioactive cars started missing engines and body parts well before anyone was able to use google maps to see what happens there.Also I know for a fact that corruption in Ukraine like in other former USSR countries is on so many levels that the president doesn't probably even know anything about what goes on in Chernobyl.
Also I don't think corruption has decreased much just because Poroshenko is in charge now , he himself has some cloudy finances.

Maybe this is an oversimplification on my part I'm not sure but quite frankly I'm not so scared because someone cut down some trees that were in the exclusion zone ,remember that not all the trees there are contaminated or highly radioactive, also not even for the contaminated cars because along all the way into the furnace there is a long way and along the way someone would notice and even if not most of the contamination would be gone because most of it comes from the dirt and dust that was attached to those cars.

quite frankly I'm not so scared because someone cut down some trees that were in the exclusion zone ,remember that not all the trees there are contaminated or highly radioactive

Trees growing on a territory with thousands of times higher concentration of Cs-137 above Earth average are not contaminated?

Most of Earth surface has less than 0.2 Ci/km^2 of Cs-137 (often much less).

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I'm not saying radioactive contamination is something good and that we should take up as much as possible I'm just not buying the "be scared" monsters out there ideology either.

as for the graveyard , bionerd23 has a video from 2012 which is probably as close as most will ever get.

I wonder how does she get there so often and travel so freely , probably a bit of good talking and some money , much like I got to visit the Ignalina RBMK reactors , which was official and the security was very tight although the visit isn't offered to anyone who simply wants it.

for those who want to explore the depths of Chernobyl via video I suggest bionerd23 channel.

Garlic
She found 3 mSv/h scrap. 25 years after the incident. Nice...

But i highly doubt anyone even someone interested in scrap metal was able or even willing to take the tools to cut and work with that steel , I mean I have sold scrap steel myself , the leftovers I get from working on stuff and I can tell you the price is not high enough to take the risk for health while working on those few trucks left there.
that tank that she measured in the video weighs no more than 10 to 20 tons maximum , the very tank she measures seems like an agricultural one used for carrying field spraying chemicals it probably weighs around 5 or so tons empty. Now the current price of ferrous thick steel is around 160 euros for 1 ton.
I highly doubt someone would do all this trouble and go through all these problems and dead ends to recycle and cash in a few thousands for this kind of risk.
Not to mention that along the line of scrap until it gets to the furnace someone has atleast a crude dosimeter and he could see the readings going "bananas" and being dangerously high.
atleast in my country all scrapyards are obligated to have some kind of radioactivity measuring on site.
all in all the locals know how radioactive this junk is i doubt some random guy would go to cut it for someone else in exchange for a bunch of vodka bottles.

Gold Member
Most of Earth surface has less than 0.2 Ci/km^2 of Cs-137 (often much less).
Cs 137 is a *fission* product, ie almost entirely man made from either atmospheric weapons testing or in power reactors. Comparing Cs 137 to some natural background levels of Cs 137 is nonsensical. The relevant comparison for health reasons is to natural background *radiation* levels, and no, Chernobyl radiation levels are not 1000 times above background miles from the accident cite.

Gold Member
She found 3 mSv/h scrap. 25 years after the incident. Nice...
Where is that result found? I see her with meter in hand reading 8 *micro* Sv per hour within sight of the reactor cite. Here:

>> She found 3 mSv/h scrap. 25 years after the incident. Nice...

Where is that result found?

7:45 in this video

Cs 137 is a *fission* product, ie almost entirely man made from either atmospheric weapons testing or in power reactors. Comparing Cs 137 to some natural background levels of Cs 137 is nonsensical.

That's why I did not say "natural background levels of Cs 137". There are some Cs-137 all over the planet now. You are right, it is not natural, it is all man-made. But it is there now.

Gold Member
That's why I did not say "natural background levels of Cs 137". There are some Cs-137 all over the planet now. You are right, it is not natural, it is all man-made. But it is there now.
Many things are here and there. Cs 137, cosmic rays, arsenic. The relevant question is what radiation dose would be obtained, and not the ratio of Cs 137 to someplace else far from where its ever been generated.

The US NRC safe dose is 500 mSv per year external to the skin. Denver's background is 12 mSv/yr. Guarapari beach in Brazil is as high as 175 mSv per year. A year's exposure to the current Chernobyl walking around, background, radiation levels (8 uSv/hr per the video) within sight of the reactor is 70 mSv per year. And unlike Denver and Guarapari, the background radiation level continues to fall around Chernobyl.

Gold Member
7:45 in this video

Thank you. I see, from the equipment used in the containment operations and later scrapped.

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Gold Member
Maybe this is an oversimplification on my part I'm not sure but quite frankly I'm not so scared because someone cut down some trees that were in the exclusion zone ,remember that not all the trees there are contaminated or highly radioactive

Cs-137 at Chernobyl has about hit its half-life by now, if I'm not mistaken. However, Cs-137 is most dangerous due to its water solubility, and what do trees drink? Burning wood releases radioactivity greater than almost any other post-fallout activity.

Although to say "former presidents gang" seems a bit troll like to me.first of all individuals and all kinds of homeless folks have been dismantling and stealing Chernobyl site metal for years , the scrapyard radioactive cars started missing engines and body parts well before anyone was able to use google maps to see what happens there.Also I know for a fact that corruption in Ukraine like in other former USSR countries is on so many levels that the president doesn't probably even know anything about what goes on in Chernobyl.

I agree. Don't mistake "corruption" for "need." Corruption among those in power steals resources from the populace, creating need among the latter. Robbed parts are likely a symptom of that need.

knowing how things happen in East and somewhat also in eastern Europe , I wouldn't be surprised if someone really took those metals and wood without properly cleaning or inspecting contamination.

By now I'm sure the local people are well aware of the need to decontaminate the parts.

also not even for the contaminated cars because along all the way into the furnace there is a long way and along the way someone would notice and even if not most of the contamination would be gone because most of it comes from the dirt and dust that was attached to those cars.

This is an interesting, but mistaken assumption, and well worth considering. Would the local population also consider the metal "clean" by now? It is certainly "safer," but still requires decontamination, as vehicles are still being buried for being "hot" according to some websites I've visited. I can't go around there in a banana suit and mask with a Geiger counter myself. Could individuals have brought vehicles or parts home and washed them there? Might they have sandblasted them and inhaled the radioactive dust, along with the silicates? Shop safety isn't big if the photos on the "there I fixed it" are to be assumed as accurate. It makes me shudder.

Trust me @johnnyrev the safety practices in the former USSR were sometimes redneck like , now don't be confused when some trolls try to presents that everything the Russians built was made out of vodka and Uranium that's not true but yes I know for a fact that due to the system there were "interesting" safety practices often seen.
Chernobyl was and still is one of a kind accident , yes yes I hear you all scream Fukushima but I believe Fukushima is only a mirrored image of what Chernobyl was and as in all such giant , out of proportion sudden catastrophes , many things are done and only later it is understood that they could have done them otherwise.

Speaking of contamination , it's rather easy to run around the site with a dosimeter and measure the levels but it's almost forgotten that there are still living examples in the forms of people who were there in 1986 to save much of Europe from an even bigger doom in the form of radioactive rain and air.
They did not cut steel for scrap as back then nobody cared about selling scrap as metal was plenty in the USSR.But they did inhale much of the particles that were still in the air at the time.Many of them suffer bad health , and ofcourse the cancer rates are seemingly higher among them, yet a great portion of those men are still alive.

30 years have passed I highly doubt anyone would just take a gas torch and cut that tank with 3mSv/h without using atleast a respirator.

After all , sooner or later that tank will have to be cut and recycled by someone , or it's going to sit there and rust to pieces and then all that radioactive rust will contaminate the ground beneath and some will be carried away by wind , so someone will do the job anyway , and maybe looking from this perspective you can be somewhat thankful to the scrap metal fanatic who takes his own health at risk to do the job.With a little but , hopefully someone decontaminates the thing before it's melted into a tractor engine or whatever they going to make out of it.

P.S. Chernobyl seems like a rather good example of what the world would look like after a nuclear war, it's a bit ironic that with all the shelters and civil defense put into schools and everyday life , humans are the ones having the hardest time of survival , simple life forms and animals not to mention plants seem much more robust and capable of adapting to these new conditions and atleast looking at the nature , I can say Chernobyl has grown more natural in 30 years with all it's contamination, it just seems that no matter how badly we pollute some place it recovers itself rather fast if we simply leave.

This is for another thread possibly but it would be very interesting to know how contaminated the animals themselves are because all these years they have been drinking the water ,eating the fruit and plants and basically just taking up everything polluted at the site unlike humans , yet the animal population thrives and they have no clinics to get diagnosed or cured.

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RobS232
It would be interesting to review the remediation efforts made at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, now 70 years old, and determine how effective they were, and what impact remediation has had on the million or so people living in those contaminated areas.

Gold Member
It would be interesting to review the remediation efforts made at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, now 70 years old, and determine how effective they were, and what impact remediation has had on the million or so people living in those contaminated areas.
The photos of obliteration immediatly after the Hiroshima bomb are well known. Here's Hiroshima 19 years later, 1964:

Today, residual radiation from the attack is nearly impossible to detect, and no elevated cancer rates of children of survivors are detectable, per this source:
http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=1800&page=431

I agree. Don't mistake "corruption" for "need." Corruption among those in power steals resources from the populace, creating need among the latter. Robbed parts are likely a symptom of that need.

I am _Ukrainian_. I know how things (used to?) work here.

The Zone is a fenced-off and guarded territory. A scavenger can steal a rusting car or two; but a massive operation to salvage about a thousand vehicles reqiures cooperation with authorities.

Basically, what happens is that people in government install their cronies into all positions which generate "streams" (a slang for money which can be... "redirected"). For example, customs, law enforcement, government-owned enterprises (we still have quite a lot of them not privatized since fall of socialism). And the head of government entity which controls the Zone is also such a position.

Our former president assigned his people (and his people's people) to all these positions. And the guy who was assigned to control the Zone was allowed to organize pilfering of its resources as he saw fit.

I would like to say that this no longer happens, but it does, to some extent. The fight to change the overall system is difficult: too many people grew used to using it to accumulate huge amounts of \$. But I'm drifting off-topic...

mister mishka
What part of Ukraine are you from nikkkom? I have been to Ukraine several times (Kiev, Odessa, Dnipropetrovsk, Crimea) and I really do love the country and the people there; I've honestly felt more at home there than I have living in some of the western countries. Though I would have to fully learn russian otherwise I won't get that far / integrated..

Regarding Chernobyl, I actually visited that place (and abandon city of Pripyat), and it was quite interesting. It can only be accessed by official guided tours, but yeah the corruption is high in Ukraine, so I wouldn't be surprised if with enough money or influence that you could make some acceptions. I think it was 2 years ago I was on that trip, I remember the guide saying that the vehicle graveyard was now no longer on the tour (so maybe that coincides with the vehicles either being removed / covered in sand). Also we were not allowed to go into the buildings in the city anymore, since they were starting to fall apart. Although the big tour group was not always togethor, so I myself went off into some of them. I climbed the stairs to the top floor suite of the former hotel and I got some really cool pictures, but I don't seem to have them on this computer :(

The radiation levels are actually the lowest inside the buildings, and highest where there is a lot of absorbtion of water. For example putting your Geiger counter over some mossy patchs in between the breaking concrete, it would go up pretty high. The "black forest" area is where there is still to this day insane amounts of radiation levels, and some trees are still actually standing there and still completely black! The concrete roads there are almost completely free of radiation, but they have to keep spraying them every day, because of the winds blowing material back.

Surprisingly there was also a LOT of vandalism in the area and in the buildings. So a lot of scavangers / people have been within the exlusion zone (some have actually been staying and living within Pripyat for weeks!). We were only there for max 2 hours, thus the overall radiation we were exposed to was quite low. But yeah, I don't really feel the security / safety systems for the exlusion zone are that well enforced. So I wouldn't be surpised if some deal was made regarding the scrap, but I find it unlikely since moving all material would be too difficult for it not to get noticed (unless the corruption / "deal" happened at a level higher up in the chain). However the actual reactor itself is quite well sealed off and the security there seems quite high (fences, barbed wire, cameras, gaurds, etc).

Gold Member
...The "black forest" area is where there is still to this day insane amounts of radiation levels, ...
Radiophobia has real, documented impacts - alcoholism, depression - so please don't add to it via hyperbole, especially in the nuclear engineering forum. The commonly found emissions rates for sites all over the Chernobyl area in recent years are available here, and are in the uSv per hour range, aside from equipment and materials used during immediate aftermath of the accident: