Sunday, July 29, 2007

So, would you like to work on the Ark?


Check out that Ukrainian sky...

Reproduced below is a list of the risks faced by personnel who are working on the Ark:
Potential radiation risks of the "Shelter" personnel are the following:
  • Job activities inside the 'hot cell' (the "open" plutonium area);
  • External exposure;
  • High risk of radionucleotide inhalation;
  • High risk of radionucleotide absorption through cuts and/or wounds;
  • High risk of a combination of severe injuries and intensive contamination of open tissues or inhalation of radioactive materials;
  • Influence of high temperatures, hypoxia, and heat stress; and
  • Synergism of radiological risk within general industrial risks.
The additional hazardous factors are as follows:
  • Aggressive chemical aerosols, including welding aerosols;
  • High humidity and uncomfortable temperatures at any time of the year;
  • Absence of a forced exchange ventilation system inside the Object Shelter;
  • Insufficient and artificial illumination;
  • Presence of "confined spaces" in most of Object Shelter's rooms;
  • Work at heights;
  • Presence of debris and difficult access to workplaces in elevated ionizing radiation fields;
  • Influence of personal protective equipment; and
  • Probable synergistic effect of numerous hazardous factors.
Also, personnel will be exposed to factors stipulated by a shift type mode of work in the Exclusion Zone - shift in dietary regimen and type, accommodation in hotels, regime-stipulated restrictions in the Exclusion Zone, etc.

Not the most pleasant job, eh? In my interviews, I've been asking ICARR scientists what they thinks motivates the Ark workers to seek jobs in Chernobyl. So far, the answer has always been, "They can't find a job anywhere else."
___________________________________

This week I will be interviewing Chernobyl liquidators. These people were drafted to the Chernobyl site immediately after the disaster and helped to clean up the plant premises and the surrounding area. Generally, they were men aged 20 to 45. They were mostly plant employees, Ukrainian firefighters, plus many 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.

Ukraine spends about five percent of its annual budget on benefits for Chernobyl liquidators, which include a housing subsidy and free public transportation use. They come to RCRM for health care.

I'd like to know just how informed they were about risk when they went to work at the Chernobyl site... Also, why did they decide to go there? (or did they even have a choice?) Here are some of the questions I plan to ask them:
  1. Where were you when you first heard about the Chernobyl disaster?
  2. What was your reaction to it? Did you think it was serious, not serious?
  3. Who asked you to be a liquidator?
  4. Why did you agree?
  5. Did you want to go to Chernobyl?
  6. Did you have a choice about going there?
  7. Were you aware of the risks of working in Chernobyl? Did anyone tell you about the dangers? (If no: Would you have agreed to be a liquidator if you had known about the risks?)
  8. Were you scared about going there?
  9. What did you do as a liquidator?
Etc, etc. I think the liquidator interviews will be very relevant to my project because I should be able to draw parallels between their situation and the situation of the Ark workers today.

Unfortunately, since the men won't speak English, I'm sure the language barrier will be an issue. (It's even an issue with the scientists who speak decent English.) I will have a translator with me - probably one of the RCRM people - but I've noticed that some questions just don't translate well. Here's to hoping the big ideas get through, at least.
___________________________________

On a lighter note - I did some more sightseeing this weekend:


Statue at the Dnipro metro station.


Incredible Chimera building, now used as a presidential administrative office.


A close-up of one of the chimera.


Friendship of Nations Monument, celebrating the 1654 "unification" of Russia and Ukraine.


At the Pyrohovo Museum of Folk Architecture & Everyday Life. It's an open-air, living history museum (think Williamsburg, VA) that is divided into seven "villages" representing different regional areas of Ukraine.


There were lots of windmills on the property.


This was taken in the Carpathian village, I think.

If you'd like to see more pictures, I've posted the links to my online photo albums on the bar to the right.

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