1986 – The nuclear Hell of Chernobyl and the Fox of Pripyat Ghost Town

The ghost town of Pripyat – part 2

Speaking of food… The radioactive isotope 137Caesium, one of the main substances emitted by Chernobyl ultimate MCA is water soluble par excellence. Tomatoes and cucumbers are pretty much water-based vegetables. According to some newspaper reports East Germany palmed off tomatoes and cucumbers to its own citizens as it couldn’t sell them to West Germany. Well, that’s been surely the case, there are some inconsistencies though.

The raining down radioactive cloud caused contamination in southern Germany. Except few spots in the northwest and south, East Germany got off with a slap on the wrist in that case. The northern farming areas like Müritz region got surely contaminated, however the south like Thuringian Forest and Ore Mountains is literally mountain and forest, hence no farming area at all. So where did that inundation of vegetables, being even wrapped in plastics to some extent, come from?

GDR, unknown vegetable types and plastic packaging – three things that are matching each other like Greenland and natural grown coconut palms. For example unknown broccoli appeared as part of our school lunch in Chernobyl summer, while before and after we’ve never seen such a vegetable again. Strange, eh? Dog food in canteens, junk horse meat in lasagnes, contaminated milk powder (first wandering around aimlessly within Germany, then appearing again in Jamaica) and toxic waste exports from FRG to GDR – the list of such scandals is looooong and still they happen. Against that background and above mentioned inconsistencies I suspect my “fellow” West Germans behind those vegetables as in fear of a loss of (metaphoric) 2.50 Euros they sent their own fellow countrymen to contaminated doom. Just a reminder: FRG didn’t recognise GDR for long time as it claimed GDR belonging to FRG.

Well, that’s what those goody two-shoes are all about: greed and capitalism. They vote Christian democrats (CDU party) or Christian socialists (CSU) and beat paths to the churches’ doors on Sundays, but next day, on Monday, when usual business starts, they quickly forget about cultural/religious assets by throwing any other to the wolves for the sake of a their very own benefit. With that kind of antisocial behaviour they pollute their human proximity. Ah, let’s don’t blame them. They grew up never ever having seen anything else that greed, opportunism, erosion of solidarity and telling lies themselves. Chernobyl exposed that dodgy characteristic trait.

Our day in Pripyat is about to end as we climb the 16 story high-riser to enjoy sunset and the view of the ghost town. In the distance, that is actually pretty close, I can spot the reactor ruin. Except the omnipresent cuckoo, still being busy to count the rest years of my life, the whole city is shrouded in deceptive calm. The thought that from here, from the 5 kilometres far reactor more than 3.900.000 km² of Europe (that is 40%!) got contaminated with at least 4 kBq/m² of 137caesium exceeds all human possible abilities of imagination. All too long we are not allowed to stay up here as the 20 o’clock curfew time is in sight already; a curfew being controlled with military means.

On the next day we go back to the ghost town. From the north-western end, that is only 15km away from the border with Belarus, we work ourselves through the remaining buildings. Also Byelorussia got heavily contaminated. Like Chernobyl and Pripyat the region around Gomel shows an increased radioactivity, hence it’s no surprise that the Byelorussians set up an exclusion zone as well. We move through the houses that once accommodated the indoor swimming pool, the children’s hospital, the second Kindergarten as well as the café near the harbour where hydrofoils left on pleasure trips to Kiev.

Not far away from the harbour is the KBO building, the home of craft like hairdressing and clock maker. Around the corner of that building is the hospital, where Misha takes me on an exploration from the very top to the very bottom. “Do you want to see something really crazy?” he asks. Well, you know my answer ;-) In the basement he shows me what a piece of dirty cloth does with his radiation detector: it wails as if there’s no tomorrow and displays some incredible 450 µSv/h. Just to remind you: the annual radiation dose a human is used to is ~4mSv, hence ~11 µSv per day. So, the cloth is cloth with a kick. It was part of the fire fighter’s garment, the ones being called to the accident site at first. Being profoundly exposed to radiation they got hospitalised, first in Pripyat then in Moscow. In the basement of the Pripyat hospital there is still the nasty trap to bump into the nuclear heritage of their uniforms.

Also Berlin has a reactor in its neighbourhood. It is not meant to produce electricity, fortunately it is not subject to psychopathic decision made by Vattenfall, RWE & Co., but it’s an experimental reactor. Chernobyl happened because of an experiment. The former Hahn-Meitner institute now has the name Helmholtz Zentrum for Materials and Energy. Its neutron source is unprotected against external influences, damages and human stupidity. If an explosion happens there 3.5 million Berlins will need some not helping iodine pills.

On the occasion of the Chernobyl disaster’s 29th anniversary Germany’s IPPNW went to Berlin’s famous Mauerpark to point out the danger emerging from Helmholtz reactor, an experimental site near Potsdam, hence not far away from German capital. Their well-intentioned action expectably didn’t find favour of hipsters and egocentric generation selfie invading Berlin for several years now. The doctors of IPPNW were even faced with snaps like “Why do you fuck up our Sunday?!” It’s is really interesting who was “allowed” to supplant real and native Berliners like Grandma Else only because he/she is super cool, using Apple, eating McDonalds. This society kills itself with its own wealth.

But what about nuclear waste? The discussion about the Asse mine in Germany reveals human stupidity. Well, it wasn’t stupid at all. According to “out of sight, out of mind” mentality nuclear waste just got hid somewhere the way that others should deal with it. The one and only important thing counting is benefits, huge benefits at the expense of others, the current as well as future generations; hence for nuclear electricity we pay more than double, first financially then with nuclear after-effects. Hooray!

Walking through Pripyat I notice graffiti of recent date. They are hidden, but visible. As shadow or colourfully clear they symbolise what children’s life in Pripyat could look like these days as 7000 out of ~50.000 inhabitants were children. This symbolic power nails it down. The ones paying for the reactor catastrophe will be the following generations. Bob isn’t your uncle just because the nuclear topic doesn’t appear anymore in the media… What involves Fukushima Daiichi in the same way!

Logically humanity is subject to evolution, but the recent speed of that evolution doesn’t happen at a snail’s pace. Our chemical environment, such as plastics, changed fundamentally. It’s us who got between a rock and a hard place, it’s us who’s got to bear the side effects. Hormonally active substances are dangerous the same way radioactivity is, hence Chernobyl definitely became a part of each of us, like Kraftwerk sings “Chain reaction and mutation, contaminated population”.

“Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former.” – Albert Einstein

I like that statement as Albert broke down human nature to its lowest common denominator, but also in terms of arrogance-free acting Homo sapiens doesn’t really have a look beyond its own nose. The two-legged invade other countries to force democracy down on other people. Like energy junkies on drug withdrawal we pump chemicals into the ground to get hold of the last little fart of gas. Also we think we can rule nuclear power.

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