The historical record of Chernobyl tragedy and lessons for the West

Production of nuclear energy threatens natural environment and people, claim opponents almost simultaneously pointing at the disaster in Chernobyl that took place 30 years ago. They may be right that there seems to be lack of technological solutions for utilisation of used uranium and other problems with safety of the process. But technology nor nuclear processes did not cause what was probably the biggest uncontrolled nuclear explosion that affected millions of people after World War II.

It was April 26th, 1986 at 11.53 p.m. in the small town in Chernobyl in the Soviet Republic of Belorussia. The fourth bloc of the reactor had malfunctioned at the nuclear plant. Immediate attempts to resolve the problem had failed. The overheated part of the reactor exploded. The fourth bloc had stood in flames. First responders, local fire fighters were not aware of increased level of radiation.



What led to the disaster at Chernobyl nuclear plant can not be simply called “human error” nor any technological failure.”

The information about the “incident” has been immediately restricted. Local top Communist party officials and top KGB officers knew what really happened. At about 1.30 a.m. on April 27th, 1986 the KGB secret report produced only in one copy reached Comrade Shcherbeecky top Communist leader in Kiev. The fire broke in the nuclear plant in Chernobyl, wrote KGB officials. The exact data on the increased radiation above any norm follows the few sentences of the report. Comrade Shcherbeecky had no clue what was happening. “So what does it mean?” – he scribes on the secret report.

Comrade Shcherbeecky did not make immediate decision to rescue local people who lived in the area where radiation had already threatened their lives. Communist Party of Ukraine instead decided to limit access to the information for Ukrainians, Soviet citizens and West.

The KGB reports discovered in the state archives of Ukraine reveal another reason of the disaster. As Ukrainian historian Vladimir Vyatrovych, who made these reports available, observed the reason was not mistake of any operator. The problem was systemic. The Soviet system was the real reason of the tragedy in Chernobyl. Even during the time of construction of the atomic plant appeared many problems. KGB in their secret reports would inform top Communist Party officials about those problems. Everyone wanted to show off before their supervisors this is why work was regularly finished incomplete on earlier dates. The KGB reports are full of information about the theft of the equipment and the usage of low-quality pipes and other construction material. Everybody would rush to complete their plan before Communist holiday, KGB observed.

It should not be surprising that days after opening of the first bloc of the reactor the problems began. Documents reveal that the first incident took place in 1978. There was also much serious incident in September of 1982. The others followed in 1983 and 1984. Communists were able to get away with them. But it was impossible to hide the disaster that took place 30 years ago.

The secret KGB reports documented first reaction to the tragedy of people of eastern Poland and most of all Belorussia and Ukraine. The Communist parties were not interested in providing help to the citizens. The first decision about the evacuation of the Chernobyl and other towns had been made only 36 hours after the explosion at the nuclear plant. Furthermore Communists allowed the Ukrainians, Belorussians and Poles to take part in the annual labor march when as documents indicate, for instance, the radiation level peaked in Kiev.

Chernobyl became tragedy for those citizens, who trusted Communist authorities. Others, were warned by Radio Free Europe, against the consequences of the increased radiation.

After 30 years since the tragedy the revealed documents of the Communist regime help to debunk myth about the nuclear energy. They make more difficult to defend populist case supported by what it is called an evidence of Chernobyl disaster. That what appears to be historic reconstruction of this tragedy, usually is not true. They point at the threatening aspect of production of nuclear energy in itself and human error. Of course what led to the disaster can not be simply called “human error” nor any technological failure. In the case of Chernobyl disaster, the deadly dangerous ideology of socialist Leninism deeply ingrained into the mentality of Soviet people, plus widespread irresponsibility encouraged by the state, takes responsibility for the tragedy in Chernobyl. The historical record must be straightened.