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Name: Pat L Kaple
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Question:
My class is interested in how many people have died from the accident and what is the current condition of the sarcophagus.



Replies:
The ultimate authority on the subject is the International Atomic Energy Agency. The most current report I could find by them is "The Chernobyl Accident: INSAG-7 an Update" IAEA, 1992 You and your students might be interested in these books:

Michelle Carter, 1993 "Children of Chernobyl"

Piers Paul Read, 1993 "Ablaze: The Story of the Heroes and Victims of Chernobyl."

Mortis


Howdy! This is my specialty -- I teach a course in nuclear chemistry, with specific emphasis on what can go wrong in a nuclear fission reaction if not controlled properly.

To be perfectly frank, I do not have a current list of statistics on how many people have died. One must remember that a good number of people were exposed AFTER the accident, when the plume of smoke and radioactive particles passed over major cities. The town or Pripyat (about 30 km east of the Chernobyl plant) was irradiated first before it could be evacuated, thereby exposing upwards of 45,000 people to dangerous levels of ionizing radiation. In the coming years, Russian doctors predict a 2% increase in cancer deaths related to radiation exposure, but their American critics claim this is grossly underestimating the situation, and that the number of cancer related deaths will be much higher.

As for the sarcophagus, it continues to crumble. Though no one wants to admit it, there are holes in the walls large enough for birds to build nests in, which they have. Rain water is entering through cracks in the roof, starting a chain reaction which releases a puff of steam and radionuclides every few months. The current plan (since they cannot very well just tear it down) is to build a new sarcophagus OVER the old one -- the design that won is a dome of some sort.

What is a sarcophagus? *giggle* sorry... could not resist.

Wordsworth



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