Thirty years ago this week, the world began to get an inkling of just how destructive nuclear power can be when the Soviet Union’s Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant experienced a meltdown at one of four reactors.
The meltdown began on Friday, April 25, but the Soviet’s were less than forthcoming with information to the rest of the world. By the morning of May 1, the Great Bend Tribune carried the Associated Press story out of Moscow, “Kremlin plays down disaster.”
Readers learned that not only did the Soviets turn down help from the United States, they also turned down medical assistance from Sweden.
At first, the official government statement said 18 people were injured in the accident. Then, the Soviets reported two had been killed and 197 injured in the accident. But the story included correspondence between ham radio operators from inside the Soviet Union and those in Israel and New York, in which reports from around the area indicated more than 300 casualties.
One Soviet ham was quoted to have said, “Nobody drinks the water. We are afraid.”
President Reagan confirmed that while Soviet officials had provided some information about the disaster, the Kremlin’s account was incomplete.
Now many of the mysteries about Chernobyl have been released to the world, mostly after the fall of the Soviet Union.
Today it is known, “The disaster, the worst nuclear accident in history, eventually affected 3 million people and forced the evacuation of over 300,000. The reactor was sealed inside an 18-mile exclusion zone, deemed too contaminated for people to live and known now just as the Zone.”
This, according to an ABCNews story from April 26 of this year, which also says. Ukrainian President will visit the area this week, and preparations are underway to put the best face possible on the location. Still, long-term health issues plague people who live in the area, it is reported, and the government appears to be downplaying this. Still, according to the ABCNews piece, “The United Nations and the World Health Organization have found that other than the tens of thousands exposed immediately after the accident, there is no evidence to show Chernobyl’s leaked radiation has had a major impact on public health.”
The Homer factor
Meanwhile, in the United States, it was reported by the AP in the Tribune that the Pilgrim nuclear plant in Plymouth, Mass., had been shut down after some workers playing with rubber gloves accidentally threw them into a tank. Doh!
“Massachusetts Public Utilities Chairman Paul Levy said the gloves, wrapped with tape to make a ball, apparently were thrown into the backup tank.
“They just shouldn’t have got in, no matter what. If they got in because of horseplay, we’re even more concerned,” Levy said. “There’s a strong implication that what was going on was that some people in the plant were wrapping tape around rubber gloves and using them as a baseball.”
The incident cost 600,000 customers $3 million for the purchase of alternative electrical power during the shutdown.
Excavating the past
Also big news this week in 1986, archeological excavations were under way at Fort Larned National Historic Site. A group of archeologists from Lincoln, Neb., were seeking answers to questions of building construction. This was so the original fort could be reconstructed.
Since then, the Fort has underwent a major historical reconstruction and is now open to the public again, and is an interesting place to visit while you are in the area.
Seat Belt law signed
It was this week in 1986 that then-Governor George Carlin signed into law Kansas’ law requiring motorists to wear seat belts. At the time, it was reported the law, which would take effect July 1, 1986, was requested by automobile manufacturers “who are trying to avoid having to build expensive passive restraints, such as air bags, into new cars built in 1990 and thereafter.”
Many felt then, and still do, that it is a far-reaching law that intrudes into the private lives of citizens. Still, today, every state in the union has legislation around seat belt usage. Kansas continues to be a state with secondary legislation, which means an officer needs to identify a primary reason for a traffic stop, and can ticket for not having a seat belt on secondarily. Unless, of course, there is an advertised “Click It or Ticket” enhanced enforcement period.
Just for fun
Siri, the ubiquitous iPhone voice, had its origins 30 years ago or more. A photo in the May 1, 1986 edition of the Great Bend Tribune features a 1980s office worker apparently talking to her computer. Then, monitors were monochrome, and there were no graphics. They were glorified word processors, really. Over the years, voice recognition software has come a long way, but we’re still not quite to a place where talking can completely replace keyboarding.