New Scientist Interviews Chernobyl Engineer

New Scientist – Cheating Chernobyl

This isn’t about gadgets, but it’s scientific, geeky, and fascinating, so I’m posting it anyway. New Scientist has an interview up with Alexander Yuvchenko, an engineer that was actually present at the Chernobyl explosion/disaster. He required multiple surgeries to survive, and is still dealing with the effects of the radiation.

Reading this interview literally sent chills down my spine. Here’s what Yuvchenko found when he got to the site of the exploded reactor:

From where I stood I could see a huge beam of projected light flooding up into infinity from the reactor. It was like a laser light, caused by the ionisation of the air. It was light-bluish, and it was very beautiful. I watched it for several seconds. If I’d stood there for just a few minutes I would probably have died on the spot because of gamma rays and neutrons and everything else that was spewing out. But Tregub yanked me around the corner to get me out the way. He was older and more experienced.

After that, Yuvchenko and three others went to the control room to see the damage from the upper level:

What happened when you got back to the reactor hall?

We climbed up to a ledge but there was very little room. Because I had come up the stairs last I stayed behind propping open the door. They took the torch from me and went in. I stood there listening to their reaction to what they saw, which looked like a volcano crater. They said there was nothing they could do, they had to get out.

What happened to those three?

All three of them died very soon afterwards. That wall and the door basically saved my life. I received quite a high dose propping open the door. We had done everything we could. That was the worst feeling: that there was nothing else we could do.

Go read the interview. Really. I’ll wait.

I’ve always been fascinated/terrified by nuclear energy and radiation, which is maybe why I find this so interesting, but it’s amazing to me that so many people died in this accident, and Yuvchenko survived to tell his tale.