Scientists Say Chernobyl Blast Was Nuclear, Not Steam Explosion

By Chris Jasurek

Three scientists have published a paper claiming that the first explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear plant in Ukraine in April, 1986, was in fact a nuclear explosion and not a steam explosion as experts had previously thought.

Nuclear physicists Lars-Erik De Geer, Christer Persson and Henning Rodhe analyzed the radioactive fallout from Chernobyl that had spread both east and west.

Three days after the explosion, radioactive materials were detected in a Russian city called Cherepovets, 300 miles north of Moscow. These were not originally associated with the main plume of radioactive debris which headed in the opposite direction towards Scandinavia.

By using “state-of-the-art meteorological dispersion calculations,” the three scientists believe that their nuclear explosion theory explains how traces of xenon fission products detected in Cherepovets on April 29, 1986, traveled from the Chernobyl nuclear reactor in Ukraine. The nuclear explosion would have injected radioactive materials into much higher altitudes of the atmosphere than would have been possible under the original theory of a steam explosion.

The scientists maintain that the second observed explosion, which they agree was a release of steam, was of much lower force, so the material expelled to lower altitudes traveled in a different direction as determined by the prevailing wind patterns on April 26, 1986.

The scientists claim that their hypothesis explains some of the previously mysterious phenomena observed, such as a blue flash above the reactor after the first explosion, and seismic disturbances measured about 60 miles west of the reactor site.

“We realized that we, based on real measurements and observations, could explain details in the Chernobyl accident scenario and the nature of the two major explosions that occurred during a few seconds that unfortunate night more than 31 years ago,” De Geer told Fox News.

A Geiger counter maxes out at 999,000 counts per minute on a narrow spot on the ground close to where equipment contaminated with radioactivity lay strewn in the ghost town of Pripyat not far from the Chernobyl nuclear power plant on August 18, 2017 in Pripyat, Ukraine. Pripyat, which had a population of approximately 40,000 and housed the plant workers and their families, was evacuated and has been abandoned ever since.. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
A Geiger counter maxes out at 999,000 counts per minute on a narrow spot on the ground close to where equipment contaminated with radioactivity lay strewn in the ghost town of Pripyat not far from the Chernobyl nuclear power plant on Aug. 18, 2017 in Pripyat, Ukraine. Pripyat, which had a population of approximately 40,000 and housed the plant workers and their families, was evacuated and has been abandoned ever since. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Worst Nuclear Disaster

The explosion on April 26, 1986 at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant is arguably the worst peacetime nuclear disaster the world has seen. Thirty-two plant workers died either from the explosion itself or from acute radiation poisoning. The contamination the blast spread affected millions, and forced the evacuation of hundreds of towns and villages.

The explosion was so forceful it blew through both the floor and the steel and concrete lid of the reactor containment vessel. Some 50 tons of radioactive material was sprayed into the atmosphere.

The event released several times more radiation than the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in World War II.

There is no way to measure the number of people who died (or who have yet to die) because of the radiation emitted by the explosion. The World Health organization estimates 9000 direct deaths, while the environmental group Greenpeace suggests ten times that number.

Photo, dated 01 October 1, 1986, showing repairs being carried out on the Chernobyl nuclear plant in the Ukraine, following a major explosion April 26, 1996. (Zufarov/AFP/Getty Images)
Photo, dated Oct. 1, 1986, showing repairs being carried out on the Chernobyl nuclear plant in Ukraine, following a major explosion April 26, 1996. (Zufarov/AFP/Getty Images)

New Data Analysis Explains Old Data

Until the three scientists published their paper, everyone assumed that the explosion happened because insufficiently trained plant operators tried to run emergency-simulation tests, and when the reactor started to reach critical temperature levels, the operators tried to insert all the control rods simultaneously. Experts believed that the graphite tips on the control rods reacted in the extreme heat to produce a massive chemical explosion.

The new paper points out that a nuclear explosions would have resulted in damage to the reactor that just would not be possible in a chemical or steam explosion.

The damage evident to the 6.6-foot thick floor of the reactor vessel, which was melted right under the core, would be better explained by a nuclear explosion which would have produced the significant heat needed to melt over six feet of steel.

The entire bottom of the reactor vessel was driven downward 13 feet. A secondary steam explosion could have done this, the scientists concede.

However the detection of xenon isotopes some 600 miles northeast, while the main plume of fallout went northwest, cannot be explained unless the first explosion was much more forceful than previously imagined.

While the science to measure the radioactive fallout was available at the time, the computational power needed to precisely model atmospheric airflow patterns was not. Using the latest meteorological science , the three nuclear physicists could see that the xenon isotopes, almost impossible to explain otherwise, could have come from Chernobyl.

General view of the concrete sarcophagus built over Reactor 4 at the Chernobyl nuclear plant, on July 9, 2003. On 26 April, 1986 an out-of-control nuclear reaction blew the roof off the steel building holding reactor 4 and spewed tons of radioactive material into the air. (Sergey Supinski/AFP/Getty Images)
General view of the concrete sarcophagus built over Reactor 4 at the Chernobyl nuclear plant, on July 9, 2003. On 26 April, 1986, an out-of-control nuclear reaction blew the roof off the steel building holding reactor 4 and spewed tons of radioactive material into the air. (Sergey Supinski/AFP/Getty Images)

Outmoded Reactor Design

De Geer pointed out to Fox News that the type of explosion which happened at Chernobyl could only happen with that outmoded and poorly designed Soviet-era reactor of the type called Reaktor Bolshoy Moshchnosti Kanalnyy (RBMK) or “high power channel-type reactor,” also called a light water graphite-moderated reactor (LWGR).

The reactor was designed so that its fuel rods could be removed and replaced while the reactor was still operating, so that refueling didn’t necessitate shutting down and cutting off power to the surrounding area. The design also allowed the reactor to run with insufficient cooling.

As the reactor’s coolant – water – boiled away as steam in the Chernobyl reactor, operators lost the means to control the reaction, which quickly accelerated until pressures within the reactor were beyond the tolerance of the system.

According to the World Nuclear Association, there are 11 such reactors currently operating in Russia, but they are of an improved and updated design.

De Geer noted that the current Russian RBMK reactors are much safer.

“Our new theory deepens the understanding of the severe effects that can be the result of some original design faults in such reactors,”De Geer told Fox News.

“Much has been corrected in remaining RBMK reactors, but a better understanding of what really happened in 1986 must of course be of great value for overseeing and possibly improving the design also in the future.”

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