In the High Peaks

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Just a Note before a Real Post

I can never believe how the time flies between posts.
I have been mesmerized by Midnight in Chernobyl this week. (Please see my previous post.)
This late afternoon I read only 12 pages in 45 minutes.  It was a technical section that explained the special type of nuclear reactor used in nuclear power plants in the Soviet Union, as opposed to those used in the West, including the U.S., and all the reasons why the Soviets built the reactors they did as opposed to why Westerners built a totally different (safer) type.
Believe me truly, I do not have a mind for physics, I never took a class in physics, I am an ignoramus on the subject. But the author explained so succinctly and simply how the Soviet reactors worked that I was rivetted. But only 12 pages in 45 minutes. I had to concentrate. But I was not in the least bored. I was not counting the pages. This is great writing.
Not only that, but Higginbotham interweaves the stories of people and families closely tied to the power plant in Chernobyl.


  1. Wow, how interesting! I have no head for physics either though my Maths is not bad. My whole family is that way inclined though, mathematical, culminating in our grand-daughter now being at uni studying astro-physics. I always knew such a thing would happen one day. LOL

    I wondered if Chernobyl was responsible for the huge upsurge in cancers in younger women that we're seeing in the UK now. In fact I Googled it and the answer seemed to be 'no'. The fallout headed mainly to Sweden they said, but there are places in Wales where the lamb is apparently still not safe to eat. Or so my husband tells me, I haven't checked this out and it may be a myth. Fascinating subject.

    1. Cath--Wow, a grand-daughter studying astrophysics. How interesting! And, I think, how proud you must be. I am fascinated by the academic interests and other pursuits of young people today. I have 4 nephews ranging in ages from 28 to 19, each one as different from the next. I love knowing what's important to them and what is on their minds.
      I'm so interested in your bringing up the issue of radioactive fallout from Chernobyl in relation to its effects on the UK.
      Ken and I were married in late March 1986. We did not go on our honeymoon trip to Ireland and England until early May, about a week after Chernobyl blew on April 25, 1986.

      As you noted the plume of radiation swept to the north over Sweden, yes, but the winds then swept some of that in an arc over the UK. I did not learn of this until maybe 3-4 years after Chernobyl, around 1990 or so.

      According to the scientific articles I read in the early 1990s, milk and dairy products in the north of England were "affected" in some way by the radiation (rain precipitated onto grasslands), enough so that a warning was issued to pregnant women, and to parents concerning their children, advising them to avoid local dairy products for a time.
      Ken and I were hopping about all over Lancashire and Yorkshire in the early days of May, and we were oblivious to all of this, consuming plenty of dairy and freshly caught fish, etc. We weren't watching the news, of course.
      When I finally learned of scientists' assertions of fallout, especially in the north of England and Scotland--since then I have avoided all but absolutely essential x-rays. I have studied the wind patterns that were in place in the days after Chernobyl.
      So sorry for the long post--But, decades later, actually within the last 10 years, I read a scientific article that disclaimed that the UK was affected in any way whatsoever (written by UK scientists and funded by the UK government) and denying that the radiation that passed over the UK could have affected people at all.
      Well, at the time scientists were measuring the radiation using sophisticated equipment. Are you saying that all those measurements were incorrect? I have wondered.
      From what articles have stated previously about the radiation that passed over the UK, it was a type that could not stay radioactive for any length of time. Its half-life, or whatever, was of relatively short duration, supposedly. That's not true of the contamination deposited in the lands surrounding the Chernobyl plant.

      In my study of the subject, I would say it's unlikely that Chernobyl alone has caused the upsurge in cancer in younger women. Might it have been a contributing factor? I don't know. And also, Midnight in Chernobyl makes it clear that Chernobyl was the most horrific nuclear disaster in the Soviet Union, but not the only nuclear accident in European Russia. Lots of other accidents occurred, in Lithuania and near Leningrad, but all of these were completely hushed up. Until the 21st century at least.

    2. Cath,
      Sorry, to add an addendum to my reply. Because all the other accidents in the European sector of the Soviet Union were totally hushed up, might they have shed radiation over western Europe, Scandinavia, or the UK? I have not seen an article that has speculated on this, but we do know now that significant releases of radioactive particles were released in each case.

    3. Hi Judith, sorry to be ages replying here, one of those busy weeks. Yes, we are very proud of our grand-daughter, and are enjoying all her experiences vicariously. LOL Fascinated by it all to be honest and understand completely your comment about being fascinated by young people and what they're doing. It must be lovely to have the interests and preoccupations of 4 nephews to follow!

      Goodness me, how interesting that you were in the UK just a week after Chernobyl went off. You understand then how alarmed we all were. They said at the time that very young children and babies in the womb were the most at risk. I *seem* to recall that they said these would be the adults who might have a higher risk of cancers in years to come. I've not heard this said since but I'm sure it was said because I selfishly looked at my own two girls, aged 12 and 9 and hoped they were out of the danger zone age-wise. Yes, the cloud definitely came over the UK or they would not have put out the warnings about dairy foods I suppose. What a shame this happened to you, it must have worried the life out of you? And I don't blame you for avoiding x-rays these days.

      Rather shocked that you saw an article saying that the UK was not at all affected. I think I would dispute this. Why were we told not to eat dairy or Welsh lamb? We all know about governmemt cover-ups, perhaps they're terrified of litigation, although I'm not sure who victims would claim from, the USSR doesn't exist any more and I can't imagine Putin paying up anyway. Would they have a claim on the UK gov. for misimformation perhaps. It's a can of worms. No wonder they're denying everything.

      I honestly don't know whether Chernobyl is or was a contributing factor in the current upsurge of cancers. A friend of mine who died several years ago of breast cancer said she'd been told it was women being more overweight and drinking more alcohol more these days. She was not overweight and only drank in moderation. She had lost her mother several years before from cancer and I do believe the stress of that can have a bad effect. I think this may be what happened in my sister-in-law and her husband's case. He had pancreatic cancer, died, 2 years later my lovely sister-in-law was dead from a brain tumour. There are of course *many* causes of cancer, but this upsurge of it in the 30 to 40 age group is inexplicable, and I refuse to rule out Chernobyl as a contributing factor. And, as you say, other hushed up Russian nuclear accidents. I read an article that was written just after the Berlin wall came down and it told us to be very concerned about aging Russian nuclear plants as they were not being looked after and were disintegrating. Now presumably Putin has done something about those. 'Presumably...'

      Sorry this too is rather long, but it's so interesting!

    4. Cath,
      This is so interesting, on so many levels. The world of private corporations in league with federal and state governments, as we have seen time and time again, not only with nuclear power, but with this "fracking" of natural gas out of the ground in many regions of the country. Thank goodness, for the most part we are rid of it here in the state of New York, but only when the governor realized he would not be re-elected if he continued to back these natural gas companies and after many people's drinking water was ruined. The dangers to people's drinking water and well water were terrible in parts of the state, as a result of this--ruined forever.
      I am getting off-topic, I know, but where there is a buck to be made, the health of the people suffers, at least that's how it is here.
      But, due to the disaster at Three Mile Island, nuclear power has not been able to get the investments to get off the ground again.
      When we got home from our honeymoon and learned what had happened in northern England while we there, we were not afraid. It was spilled milk, and on with it. But, as I think I've mentioned, I have avoided as many x-rays as possible, except for the absolutely necessary dental images.
      How sad the cancers of your sister-in-law and her husband, and the breast cancer of your friend. I am sorry.
      My mother died of cancer, but she did not have it until she was 90 years of age when she was diagnosed and lived to be 93. I feel the worst for younger people (our age!) who are suffering from it and people younger than us.

  2. Midnight in Chernobyl sounds fascinating Judith.

    1. Hi Diane,
      It has proven to be so much more fascinating and worthwhile than I imagined. I have read quite a number of books about this topic, each one looking at the disaster from a different perspective. So this comprehensive view has been so exciting, really, to read.