Advanced Low/Mid Chornobyl catastrophe

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You are watching an episode from Leonid Parfyonov’s program Намедни (Like Yesterday). While watching the episode, pay attention to signposts – words, phrases or questions which signal what you are going to hear for the next stage. Write a summary of this episode. Make a presentation for your classmates using the facts underlying in the video episode and in the text below. To work with this episode I provide a script with words removed from the script. The assignment is to fill in the blanks while watching the episode. This helps students to listen to the details, individual words, and 'stale expressions'.

Leonid Parfyonov has been the most well-known broadcast journalist, news anchor, and an author of social and cultural documentaries. You are watching an episode from his cycle – 42 TV series – which covered the period from 1961 to 2003 and was taken off air in 2004. He created a current affairs program that presented an account of events still fresh in the national consciousness. One of the most significant aspects of his documentary is that he reported of what previously had been privately discussed but had not been publically revealed.

April 26, 1986 – Chornobyl disaster is a symbol of the decay of the Soviet system. The official figures state that there were 10,000 deaths as a direct result of the accident; more than three and a half million Ukrainians were affected. The accident occurred at 1:23 AM on the night of Friday, April 26, 1986 at the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant in the Ukrainian SSR. Basically, the cause was neither equipment failure nor human error, but an experiment that went wrong. In order to test how long a reactor could operate with no external power supply, plant engineers purposefully lifted all but 6 neutron-absorbing control rods out of the core of the nuclea reactor No.4, and disabled the automatic shut-down system which would have normally logged off in the case of a power failure. As soon as the external electricity supply had been switched off, power levels inside reactor No.4 began to rise, escalating into a full-scale nuclear explosion.

With time, some detectable radiation spread throughout the world. Since the USSR was silent about the accident until after it had been detected by its neighbors to the north, the first reports of radioactivity actually came from Finland . The Soviet system's response to Chornobyl has been sluggish, chaotic, profligate with human life and bolstered by the crudest propaganda. Indeed, today's uncertainty over the health consequences of Chornobyl is largely the fault of a deliberate cover-up by Soviet authorities. In fact, independent research on the effects of the accident was derided or hushed up under the Soviet regime. Also, believe it or not, in 1988 a decree was issued forbidding doctors from citing 'radiation' as a cause of death on death certificates!

Chornobyl liquidators are people who were drafted to the Chornobyl site immediately after the disaster to clean up the plant premises and the surrounding area. They were supposed to be 35+ years old and to have had their children already; generally, they were men aged 20 to 45. Officially, all liquidators voluntarily took part in the evacuation, but when asked what motivated them to seek jobs in Chornobyl, they answered they couldn’t find a job anywhere else; and the average payment was 4 times as big as it was, for example, in Kyiv. Also, no one was scared to work in Chornobyl because they knew so little about how radiation affects the human body over time. They were mostly plant employees, Kyiv subway constructors, Ukrainian firefighters, soldiers and miners from Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and other parts of the then Soviet Union.

The exact number of liquidators is unknown as no completely accurate records were kept of the people involved in the clean-up. However, more than 700,000 people who were involved (both on- and off-site) in tackling the accident’s aftermath were eventually granted the status of liquidator, and were provided special government benefits. Allegedly, the Ukraine spends about five percent of its annual budget on benefits for Chornobyl liquidators, but with price increases and inflation the benefits aren't enough. Moreover, the indifference, disrespect, annoyed looks and responses from the medical personnel and political leaders burns more than the lack of financial support. Those liquidators’ heroism, intentional or not, is undoubted and unparalleled, yet so unappreciated.