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Should Chernobyl have been cleaned?

  1. Apr 5, 2014 #1
    Well, should it?
    How liable was the fallout on ground to move and go elsewhere?
    The Zone was evacuated. But then large number of people were sent to clean the surface.

    Sending people to clean the surface exposed them to radiation. If they had not been sent there, and the fallout had been left where it fell, would the fallout have moved to expose more people outside the Zone than the people sent into the Zone to clean it?

    Do you think Chernobyl was cleaned correctly, cleaned too much, or not cleaned enough?
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 5, 2014 #2


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    I'm not sure about the larger area around it (but I think the hope is to use the area again at some point in the future - and material directly at the surface can move easily), but getting access to the power plant was absolutely necessary to prevent more radioactive material from getting released.
  4. Apr 5, 2014 #3
    Chernobyl zone is a big place.

    It's relatively easy to clean up smaller areas, such as roofs, buildings and roads, since they are less than 1% of overall territory.

    Cleaning up big areas such as fields and forests is much more difficult, and in most cases economically infeasible.
  5. Apr 5, 2014 #4
    IIRC studies have shown that fallout is relatively immobile in the long term. Basically, caesium/strontium salts get incorporated into soil and vegetation. They move some tens of meters per year.
  6. Apr 5, 2014 #5


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    So the answer is 'NO' ?
    See that the town remains deserted and the area is reverting to nature, the cleanup effort was clearly ill advised, as material and human costs were incurred needlessly.
  7. Apr 5, 2014 #6
    That is the easy answer, from what I have read the areas they decontaminated have radiation levels equal to or higher than after the initial explosion.

    Yes the area is reverting to nature but what is the state of that nature, are birds reproducing as prolifically as before.

    Are deer, rabbits and wolves living as long as they used to?

    Are plants taking up and accumulating radioactive isotopes, I seem to remember that last year there was concern that a forest fire in the exclusion zone would release radiation over Western Europe.
  8. Apr 7, 2014 #7

    There was no general cleanup of entire territory of the Zone. As I already said, it is economically infeasible.

    The cleanup of roads, station itself and many other necessary buildings was (obviously) necessary - people had to be present there for years.
  9. Apr 7, 2014 #8


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    The Chernobyl lessons are still being learned.
    The cleanup effort evolved as the full dimensions of the damage became clear. Also, the decision to abandon the local town was surely not taken easily or quickly. So there were surely wasted cleanup efforts, but as Nikkkom points out, the area involved is just too large to clean up, so the effort had to be focused on the elements essential to the cleanup.
    Interestingly, the surrounding biosphere seems to be largely unaffected, so the closed off area is apparently becoming something of a nature preserve. Researchers are studying the reproductive success of the wildlife in the area, looking for signs of damage. Thus far, afaik, the most interesting finding has been that the decay of leaves and such is slower than usual.
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