miércoles, 14 de agosto de 2013


August 14, 2013

              To the forgotten heroes who gave their lives at Chernobyl

Pripyat. Source:

Pripyat (Kievan district, Ukraine) was once a town teeming with life. It was constructed in 1970 to serve as a settlement for the staff and construction workers of the Chernobyl atomic power plant. It was known officially as "Atomograd", being the ninth of its kind in the Soviet Union.

By 1985, Pripyat had a human population of more than 47.000 inhabitants. People had all the conveniences, from shopping malls and education centres to theatres and sporting complexes. 

Being a well planned city, with broad streets, there were no traffic jams in Pripyat as in any European and U.S. cities had at that time.

All of this changed abruptly  on April 26, 1966 at 1: 23 h. The 4th unit of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant (CNPP) exploded, completely destroying this reactor.

The radioactive magma from the reactor sunk and kept moving like a giant nuclear snake crawling underneath in the basement, it had to be cooled and contained somehow. 

Many brave people from different parts of the Soviet Union gave their lives working day and night to avoid that the entire nuclear complex exploded, an explosion that would have completely erased all life in Europe. These people are the forgotten heroes (Videos 1-2).

                                                         Video 1. The battle of Chernobyl.

                                                          Video 2. La batalla de Chernobyl.

There was a fire that lasted nearly two weeks, during which radioactive isotopes were thrown into the air and surrounding areas. The atmosphere was contaminated with 190 tonnes of radioactive material (isotopes of strontium, cesium, plutonium, iodine, and microscopic pieces of uranium) from the burning 4th reactor.

Chernobyl nuclear disaster is considered to be the worst of its kind in the history of nuclear power. Worst than the recent Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster occurred in Japan on March 11, 2011, according to some experts. 

As a result of this nuclear accident, people had to be evacuated from the town of Pripyat. It has been uninhabited by humans ever since. 

The local authorities sometimes drive through the ghost town, leaving only the vehicle tracks on the ice and snow behind them during Winter.

Contrary to what most people would think, Chernobyl and its surrounding areas are not a barren land like a lunar landscape. Chernobyl and Pripyat have life. Life is a force that challenges even the most hostile environments.

Nature has reclaimed what it belonged to her in the first place. Plants have invaded the streets and buildings. No longer bothered by any human beings, animals have now come to occupy the abandoned city of Pripyat.

We have found the following information on Pripyat and also a set of photos of this ghost town:

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The town of Pripyat belongs to the Kievan district (Kievskaya oblast) of Ukraine. It is situated on the right bank of the Pripyat, which flows into the Dnieper.

The town itself is young, yet the territory it was built on is very old. Known as Polesie (lit. ‘forest land’), this endless terrain of woodland and marshes stretches across the south-east of Belarus and northern Ukraine. Some scholars believe that it was in Polesie that the Eastern Slavs appeared as the distinctive ethnic and cultural group. More than a thousand years ago this territory was a part of Kievan Russia, the early medieval forerunner of modern states of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. The adjacent areas are rich in archeological and historical sites, ranging from the stone age to the later Middle ages The nearby town of Chernobyl, whose name was given first to the power plant and later became a synonym of the greatest ecological catastrophe humankind has ever seen, possesses the history of many centuries. From the Middle ages it had a strong Jewish population whose religious leaders are still venerated by the Jews. Thus the territories contaminated by the 1986 nuclear disaster are the heartland of East Europe in terms of ethnic, cultural, religious and political history.

Chernobyl is the name for the catastrophe, yet Pripyat is the most visible symbol of it. It was founded on the 4th of February 1970 as the settlement for the construction workers and staff of the Chernobyl power plant. The latter was started in the same year – first as construction site, then as one of the biggest nuclear electric power stations in Europe. Pripyat was officially called atomograd (‘the town of the atomic scientists and workers’), the ninth settlement of the kind in the USSR.

Still, the new town was far from being a mere industrial settlement. Soon it became an important junction and the main staging post for the whole of Polesie. The existing railway station of Yanov was close to the city. The newly built river port immediately extended the river Pripyat fairway that amounted up to 591 km (370 miles) in 1976. The convenient highway network in the area made it suitable for the passenger bus operation between the adjacent villages and towns. For instance, the timetable for May 21 1982 lists 52 departures and arrivals of the 14 daily services.

By November 1985 the town of Pripyat had 47500 citizens of 25 ethnic groups. The annual increase in population was more than 1500. Half of them were babies born to the citizens, the rest being the settlers who moved to Pripyat from various parts of the Soviet Union. The town’s population was expected to reach the figure of 75000-78000 in due course.

It was natural that the people aimed to settle in Pripyat. Designed as the exemplary socialist town built on a blanc space, it had all the commodities and attractions a Soviet city could dream of. It was frequently visited by the excursions and official delegations of the similar new-built settlements and cities, who studied Pripyat’s experience and styled itself after her.

The streets and avenues received the traditional Soviet names. Apart from the high street, which was to bear the name of Lenin, one would find People’s Friendship Street and Stalingrad Heroes’ Street. There were the Embankment Street and the Prospects of Builders and Enthusiasts. One of the main streets was named after Lesya Ukrainka, the 19th-century Ukrainian poet. Last but not least, the nuclear theme was not forgotten. The city had Kurchatov Street for Igor Kurchatov was the founding father of the Soviet nuclear programme.

Pripyat is a monocentric town. The administrative buildings, such as the gorsovet (Town’s council) and gorkom (Town’s committee of the Communist Party) were situated in the centre of the city, along with the cultural and recreational facilities, namely Prometheus Cinema, GPKiO (City’s Park of Culture and Leisure) and Energetic Culture Centre, which housed the theatre, the library, the dancing and meeting halls and various hobby clubs. The department stores and supermarkets were built next to them, and the Polissya hotel as well (“Polissya’ is the Ukrainian name for Polesie).

Pripyat was the town of architectural innovations. The new projects were designed for and put to test in Pripyat before they were adopted as the Soviet standard. There were 19 culture centres of the Energetic project and 11 cinemas similar to the Prometheus all over the former USSR. It was planned that a vast number of public facilities would be built and open by the end of 1988. The list included two shopping centres (one of them was to be called Pripyat Dawns), the two sporting complexes (Chernigov and Pripyatian respectively), the Pioneer’s Palace (children’s education and leisure centre), the new cinema of two halls, the Jubilee Palace of Arts and the October Hotel. At the corner of Lesya Ukrainka Street and Builders’ Prospect the 52-metre high TV broadcasting tower was to be built.

The city planning of Pripyat followed the ‘triangle principle’ invented by the Moscow architect Nikolai Ostozhenko and his studio. Later on, when the Pripyat’s project was being adopted, the Kievan architects introduced some alterations into it. That made the street layout of Pripyat unique, despite the fact that a dozen of Soviet newly built cities follow the same ‘triangle principle’ of construction. Some neighbourhood units of Pripyat have exact replicas in the two other atomgrads (Kurchatov and Semipalatinsk), the cities of Volgodonsk and Togliatti.

The ‘triangle principle’ is based on an apt combination of the living towers and the standard blocks of flats. It saves much land, which, in its own turn, may be turned into the green areas and gardens. Free spaces between the structures make the urban area less visually dense. The traditional idea behind the high-rise buildings was to save land; on the contrary, Soviet architects, wanted to make life more comfortable. They aimed to achieve this both with the use of extensive spaces between the blocks and with the equiangular thoroughfare planning. It is interesting to know that the Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev paid considerable interest to the city planning, and used to give some personal advice to the architects. Traffic jams, which by the early 1970s became the inevitable trouble of any European or American city, were one of Brezhnev’s concerns. Although the cities of the USSR had yet not been suffering from it, Brezhnev expected the progress of the Soviet car industry to jam the Soviet streets in the coming 15 to 20 years, and the specialists considered developing new towns to be particularly vulnerable. Therefore the equiangular principle of the street layout was employed as a standard rule of the Soviet city planning. Pripyat and ten other new cities, which were styled after her, were made traffic jam safe: indeed, towns like Volgodonsk and Togliatti are never jammed during the rush hours even today. Nor would Pripyat…

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Overview of city.

View of the ChNPP.

Stele at the edge of the city.

The house at the Lenina ave.


Radiation hazard sign.

Sculptures at the Lenina ave.

"Kolosok" store.

Lenina ave.


So-called "White" house and Rainbo...


View to the Lenina ave.

A tree inside the PC "Energetic".

Gymnasium of the PC "Energetic".

Bldg. #5 at the Heroes of Stalingrad street.

Bldg. #5 at the Heroes of Stalingrad street.

Heroes of Stalingrad street.

Builders avenue.

"Lazurny" swimming pool.

A clock on the "Lazurny" swimming pool r...

Stained glass at the "`Pripyat" cafe.

Prometeus cinema.

Consumer centre.

Post box.

Consumer centre.

Consumer centre, interior.

Consumer centre, moss.

Lenina ave.


A death toll of 985,000 human lives

"Our Friend the Atom", as a Walt Disney´s show requested by the Eisenhower administration used to call the championing the use of nuclear power, can become sometimes very unfriendly. 

And when the atom does not obey man, its power can be terrifying and destructive. Pripyat remains a prime example of this.

Yablokov et al. (2009) give a comprehensive account of the consequences of the Chernobyl catastrophe for humans and the environment. 

After a detailed study, these scientists have estimated a horrific death toll of 985,000 humans, mostly from cancer. More than what the International Atomic Energy Agency claims, around 4,000.

And the radioactive contamination that showered the region will last for hundreds of centuries to come. 

Because some of the radionuclides have radioactive half-lives ranging from 20,000 to 200,000 years, their concentrations “will remain practically the same virtually forever", indicate Yablokov et al. (2009).

All of this is basically kept in the dark. The nuclear lobby has tremendous political clout around the world. It is even more powerful than the food industry lobbyists.

Should people know the truth what is really cooking in its domains, nobody would ever want nuclear reactors in their backyards. 

We had better watch out and keep an eye on "Our Friend the Atom".


Mara W. (2011). Perspectives on the Chernobyl Disaster: Legacy and Impact on the Future of Nuclear Energy. Marshall Cavendish Corporation, Tarrytown, NY, USA. 111 p.

Nelson D. E. (2010). Perspectives on Modern World History: Chernobyl. 1st Edition. Greenhaven Press, Gale Cengage Learning, Farmington Hills, MI, USA. 220 p.

Onishi Y., Voitsekhovich O. V. & Zheleznyak M. J. (Eds.) (2007). Chernobyl - What Have We Learned? The Successes and Failures to Mitigate Water Contamination over 20 Years. Environmental Pollution 12. Springer, Dordrecht, The Netherlands. 289 p.

Yablokov A., Nesterenko V. B., Nesterenko A. V. & Sherman-Nevinger J. D. (2009). Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment. Ann. New York Acad. Sci., vol. 1181: 1- 327.


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