Russian nuclear physicist calls comparison of Japan to Chernobyl a misinformation

Today, a small distraction from the situation of Polish economy. This blog is trying to de-code propaganda themes in the world media. Majority of them are intended to stir up emotions in people to make them buy their local or national newspaper. Unfortunately frequently people are scared for a long time and media managers happy to sell their twisted stories to them.

In recent days the strongest of them was an attempt to enliken the nuclear reactors' failures in Japan to the catastrophy of Chernobyl. It was propaganda attack on the nuclear energy industry without any evidence in the Soviet style. (For instance here, here and there)

A daily newspaper printed even such opinion without any comment:

It is common rhetoric that U.S. reactors are much better designed, but it is a half truth at best. In 1986, Chernobyl 4 was state of the art and its lid was stronger than domes covering some plants in this country. Soviet engineers pronounced it meltdown proof and that even if the worst happened, the lid would hold.

What kind of the start of the art could have been Soviet machine RMBK?

Where in the world such reactors were installed outside Soviet Union? Answer: Nowhere. Today they are still operating in the Lithuania, Ukraine and obviously Russia.

Modifications have been made to overcome deficiencies in all the RBMK reactors still operating. In these, originally the nuclear chain reaction and power output could increase if cooling water were lost or turned to steam, in contrast to most Western designs. It was this effect which led to the uncontrolled power surge that led to the destruction of Chernobyl 4. All of the RBMK reactors have now been modified by changes in the control rods, adding neutron absorbers and consequently increasing the fuel enrichment from 1.8 to 2.4% U-235, making them very much more stable at low power. Automatic shut-down mechanisms now operate faster, and other safety mechanisms have been improved. Automated inspection equipment has also been installed. A repetition of the 1986 Chernobyl accident is now virtually impossible, according to a German nuclear safety agency report.

And here is Japanese modern BWR reactor:

Another journalist also assumed that the Japanese nuclear plant's reactor is the same like the one, which was in Chernobyl.

The most immediate risk is to the workers who are attempting to keep the reactors cool and bring the situation under control. High doses of radiation can kill cells, causing radiation sickness, a slew of acute symptoms that can come on in hours or days. They include nausea, vomiting, burns on the skin, bone marrow destruction, and even death. At Chernobyl, 28 emergency and plant workers died of acute radiation sickness.

And another expert:

While the situation in Japan arose from different circumstances, Hulse says the two are linked because of the potential for irreversible consequences.

"The real question is would you be comfortable raising your children there, and my answer is no," Hulse said nearly 20 twenty years ago discussing the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl.

Perhaps such massive propaganda effort was nothing new only renewed efforts to promote certain lobbies for solar, water and maybe wind energy plant.

ABC Australia interviewed Russian nuclear physicist Leonid Bolshov who was in Chernobyl after explosion. He demolishes a myth of so-called similarity between a Soviet disaster and the Japanese nuclear industry problems.

In fact, when it comes to reactor design and safety systems, Fukushima and Chernobyl aren't even close. The Chernobyl reactor had no containment structure, just a thick concrete layer over the top of the fuel rods.

When the reactor exploded, highly radioactive fuel was released directly into the atmosphere.

The Japanese reactors are housed in pressure vessel tanks that are then encased in a reinforced containment structure. It's designed to stay intact even if the fuel begins to melt - a so-called meltdown.

All of that, in turn, is housed in a secondary containment building. Those were the structures destroyed when steam vented from the reactors caused hydrogen explosions.  

(...) For those such as Sergey Zaitsev, their lives would never be the same. He was sent to work at Chernobyl a month after the accident. He's suffered the health effects ever since.

(Sergey Zaitsev speaking)

"No one at that time understood how serious it was", he says. "They even told us what happened there but no one actually understood what it was".

In 1986 insiders from communist circles were saying that Soviets wanted to increased production of the plutonium for the military. That is why most probably the explosion was caused by excessive pressure buildup, hydrogen explosion and rupture of all containments, propelling molten core material into the environment (a “dirty bomb”).

It will not happen in Japan (the best explanation ever found why it is so) or anywhere else in the Western world.