To be a scientist is to be naive. We are so focused on our search for truth, we fail to consider how few actually want us to find it. But it is always there, whether we see it or not, whether we choose to or not. The truth doesn’t care about our needs or wants. It doesn’t care about our governments, our ideologies, our religions. It will lie in wait, for all time. And this, at last, is the gift of Chernobyl. Where I once would fear the cost of truth, now I only ask: What is the cost of lies?
What is the cost of lies? It’s not that we’ll mistake them for the truth. The real danger is that if we hear enough lies, then we no longer recognize the truth at all.
There was nothing sane about Chernobyl. What happened there, what happened after, even the good we did, all of it, all of it… madness.
The numbers mean the same thing. “Maybe.” Maybe the core will melt through to the groundwater. Maybe the miners I’ve told to dig under the reactor will save millions of lives. Maybe I’m killing them for nothing. I don’t want to do this anymore. I want to stop. But I can’t.
The fire we’re watching with our own eyes is giving off nearly twice the radiation released by the bomb in Hiroshima. And that’s every single hour. Hour after hour, 20 hours since the explosion, so 40 bombs worth by now. Forty-eight more tomorrow. And it will not stop. Not in a week, not in a month. It will burn and spread its poison until the entire continent is dead.
Despite the stupidity, the lies, even this, you are compelled. The problem has been assigned, and you will stop at nothing until you find an answer. Because that is who you are.[to Ulana Khomyuk]
An RBMK reactor uses uranium 235 as fuel. Every atom of U-235 is like a bullet traveling at nearly the speed of light, penetrating everything in its path: woods, metal, concrete, flesh. Every gram of U-235 holds over a billion trillion of these bullets. That’s in one gram. Now, Chernobyl holds over three million grams, and right now, it is on fire. Winds will carry radioactive particles across the entire continent, rain will bring them down on us. That’s three million, billion, trillion bullets in the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat. Most of these bullets will not stop firing for 100 years. Some of them, not for 50,000 years.
“Why worry about something that isn’t going to happen?” Oh, that’s perfect. They should put that on our money.