Chernobyl and the Humility of Technology.docx

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Western University
Geography 2152F/G
Bharat Punjabi

Chernobyl 3/7/2012 9:23:00 AM The Event  Occurred early in the morning, like many other technological accidents  Explosion in nuclear reactor during maintenance  The resulting steam explosion destroyed the core of the reactor, releasing at least one hundred times the radiation of both atom bombs dripped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki  A deadly radioactive plume soared into the jet stream and blew over Scandinavia easily transgressing political boundaries  Many casualties and health consequences o Immediate toll was 47 pilots and firemen died due to acute radiation poisoning o 4,000 people died as a result of radiation poisoning according to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)  According to the report, most people suffered from self perceived poor health and not real ailments  Based on official Soviet estimates, the report also claimed the presence of myths and misperceptions about the threat of radiation in the affected areas  Green party estimates 60,000 people would have died from Chernobyl affected illnesses, 15 times the IAEA number o Deliberate manipulation and systematic suppression of health statistics in contaminated regions made it impossible to prove any prediction of future deaths or illnesses with any certainty o Doctors were under severe pressure from the communist party to minimize the scope of the disaster  Initial Soviet denial o Caught by American satellites o Communist utopia o Absence of information due to lack of democracy o Blame game – operator error (like Bhopal) o Fast pace of technology development in the Soviet Union o Pressure to meet power generations quotas in a planned economy o Engineers were never educate on the ethical and moral implications of their work Political Culture in Soviet Union  Authoritarian society  The disaster and response stemmed fro a failure of imagination and not simply from a breakdown of technology  The Soviet propaganda taught Soviets that accidents could happen only in a capitalist system and were impossible in a socialist context o Ended up creating the illusion of safety Broader Work Culture  Research has shown that technicians in the nuclear plant treated its operations as a routine affair, perpetuating an illusion of safety already in place  Managers also assumed that the running of a nuclear plant was a routine operation requiring low skill and low pay Health  The successor states of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine commissioned several studies but none have been published
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