# Fate of Chernobyl's vehicle graveyard

• Chernobyl
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.

mheslep
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.

mheslep
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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johnnyrev
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 gonna 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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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.

mheslep
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...

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).

mheslep
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:

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:
Yeah I should ellaborate better, the black forest is an area the guide showed us (by pointing to it from a distance) where there were still high levels of radiation. How he found that out was during winter he went over there wanting to measure amount of radiation of the black trees and say it was quite high and quickly left (and also left his boots). Though I don't know enough on this topic to give any good details or information worthy of this physics forum, I merely wanted to just share an experience.

Thanks for that link though, lots of good information in there!

johnnyrev

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?

-------------------------------------------------------

but
dangerous strontium 90 and americium 241
easily dissolved and a long half-life. ( half-lives of 432.2 for americium)

All things are somewhat dangerous if one misuses them.I stayed rather long in the sun today , It's June here and this is the time sun has it's highest radiation levels in my location so after a few hours I got pretty burnt.
Chernobyl is actually getting better faster than most people , even experts thought and the wildlife has definitely been doing much much better than at any time in the history of that area simply due to the lack of humans.

I think the really nasty side of radiation is that most of the radioactive dust and particles get into dirt and trees and water faster than anyone can clean up so then they get stuck there and so cause contamination since it's impossible to clean up every square inch of landmass and trees.

The vehicles have all been cut up for scrap. In the satellite shot in the third post, top centre. All those dots are the vehicles that once were in the field below. This has been done officially (well, with the knowledge of those who man the checkpoints). Metal reclamation is rife in the Zone. There are teams at work stripping the remains of reactor 5 (there are far fewer cranes around it than there once were), the ships in the dockyard and there are rumours work has even started on the druga 3 array (although I haven't witnessed that myself). Small scale theft, window frames and radiators etc has been going on for years but is periodically clamped down on.

http://chernobylgallery.com/galleries/chernobyl-reactor-5/reactor-5-exterior/

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).
Yes, that's exactly how it happens: the "deal" happens high enough and material is moved with the knowledge of the guards and their superiors.

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.
Those bombs had only a few kilograms of fissile material, and IIRC less than half of it fissioned in the explosion. Chernobyl blast is estimated to vaporize several TONS of reactor core.

mheslep
Gold Member
Those bombs had only a few kilograms of fissile material, and IIRC less than half of it fissioned in the explosion. Chernobyl blast is estimated to vaporize several TONS of reactor core.
In totaling the radioactive material from the WWII bombs, add to the fission products the couple of moles of MeV neutrons which activate materials immediately adjacent the bomb before dispersal.

The fire and steam explosion from the Chernobyl accident ejected both radioactive and non-radioactive material. Tons of graphite was ejected (not vaporized). Of the radioisotopes released, 50% were inert noble gases, which though dangerous at the time like the prompt radiation from a weapon, the gases also decayed quickly away. Some *27 kg* of long lasting Cs-137 was released.

http://large.stanford.edu/courses/2012/ph241/wessells1/
http://nuclearweaponarchive.org/Nwfaq/Nfaq2.html
http://www.world-nuclear.org/information-library/safety-and-security/safety-of-plants/chernobyl-accident.aspx

In totaling the radioactive material from the WWII bombs, add to the fission products the couple of moles of MeV neutrons which activate materials immediately adjacent the bomb before dispersal.

The fire and steam explosion from the Chernobyl accident ejected both radioactive and non-radioactive material. Tons of graphite was ejected (not vaporized).
Reactor had about 200 tons of uranium, and hundreds of tons of graphite. Reactor jumped to estimated 30+ GWt power just before explosion. After explosion, it burned for *days* (there are numerous eyewitness accounts that the flame was very large, comparable to smokestack's height). It means a lot of graphite and fuel turned into microscopic ash-like particles.

Well the army helicopters started flying over very soon after the accident , and from the tapes it can be seen the fire wasn't to the height of the smoke stack because the smoke stack in the RBMK is very high if the flames were that high the helicopter's wouldn't have been anywhere near but we have the tapes from the aftermath showing us the flame size.Ofcourse what happened there the night of the accident is left only in the memories of the ones who were there because no cameras were there to catch any of that.

I think the fire more resembled a cloud of smoke rising from a steel melting furnace than an ordinary fire were something actually chemically combusts and goes up in flames since there isn't much burning material in the reactor hall or anywhere in the active zone its all pretty much steel and concrete but i guess the enormous heat caused by the still ongoing chain reaction and decay is what caused the materials to simply melt and turn themselves into a sparkling soup.
It can actually be seen from the tapes later released that the hot spot is not so much fire as it's a lava like soup that sits in the middle of the reactor like an egg.

mheslep
Gold Member
Reactor had about 200 tons of uranium, and hundreds of tons of graphite. Reactor jumped to estimated 30+ GWt power just before explosion. After explosion, it burned for *days* (there are numerous eyewitness accounts that the flame was very large, comparable to smokestack's height). It means a lot of graphite and fuel turned into microscopic ash-like particles.
We are discussing the comparison of remediation between WWII atomic attacks and Chernobyl. That is, *nuclear* remediation. What does graphite have to do with this? Or Uranium, how is it significant?

I'm not fully sure of this I hope people with more knowledge will correct me but it seems that a fully loaded and fully working nuclear reactor undergoing meltdown causes much more contamination and after effects than a detonated nuclear bomb, especially the new age ones were the bombs are made more precise and more of the fissile material undergoes chain reaction before the blast rips it apart and the chain reaction ceases.

Also to bear in mind is that in the case of Chernobyl there was very little standing in the way between the reactor fuel and atmosphere , and even with a strong containment structure I think such a blast would have made the structure to collapse and result in what already happened.
after all Fukushima reactors had the safety vessel and yet they too failed to contain the pressure the only blessing that they weren't operating at 100x times their maximum when they went off like Chernobyl was.

We are discussing the comparison of remediation between WWII atomic attacks and Chernobyl. That is, *nuclear* remediation. What does graphite have to do with this? Or Uranium, how is it significant?
Reactor graphite has significant amounts of C14.

Uranium per se is not too dangerous (it has no intermediate-lived isotopes except U232), but reactor's uranium oxide ceramic pellets, of course, have all sorts of fission products in them. When they melt (or even "merely" strongly heated in an open air fire), those fission products are released.

I don't understand why you are even asking the question, since you for sure know this already.

mheslep
Gold Member
Reactor graphite has significant amounts of C14.

Uranium per se is not too dangerous (it has no intermediate-lived isotopes except U232), but reactor's uranium oxide ceramic pellets, of course, have all sorts of fission products in them. When they melt (or even "merely" strongly heated in an open air fire), those fission products are released.

I don't understand why you are even asking the question, since you for sure know this already.
Curies from the generated C14 in the entire graphite stack (N content ~30 ppm with 100% conversion) is trivial compared to the Curies from the reactor Cs 137 alone.

The fission product mass from the accident is indeed the health problem. All of it, as I addressed earlier, was calculated and tallied in the dozens of kg range. Whether or not fission product happens to be inclosed in ceramic or buried separately in the dirt, the amount of dangerous radioisotope is not "tons". As you say, you know this from earlier, so it's unclear why you insist on "tons".

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Curies from the generated C14 in the entire graphite stack (N content ~30 ppm with 100% conversion) is trivial compared to the Curies from the reactor Cs 137 alone.
C14 is generated from C13 too, via neutron capture. C13 content in graphite is 1.1%. That's why reactor graphite emits thousands of R/h.

The fission product mass from the accident is indeed the health problem. All of it, as I addressed earlier, was calculated and tallied in the dozens of kg range. Whether or not fission product happens to be inclosed in ceramic or buried separately in the dirt, the amount of dangerous radioisotope is not "tons".
Yes, they are measured in tons. To be more precise, it's about 1-2 tons. RBMK reactors use natural or lightly enriched Uranium. Let's say it's 1% U235. Typical power reactor fissions about the same amount of atoms as fuel enrichment. (Some U235 remains not fissioned; but some U238 gets converted to Pu239 and then fissioned, so it roughly balances out).

RBMK reactor contained a bit less than 200 tons of fuel. 1% of 200 tons is 2 tons. That, very roughly, is how much fission products should have been in that fuel. Definitely not "dozens of kg". Chernobyl reactor was not freshly loaded at the time, the opposite: it was planned to shut down for refueling.

(Edit: googled for it and it seems RBMKs used to use 2% enriched fuel back then, today they use 2.4%. So make that "2-4 tons of fission products")

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Finally found the amount of graphite in RBMK: 1850 tons.