A while ago I watched a documentary on building the sarcophagus which encloses the Chernobyl Nuclear disaster site. I have unsuccessfully, tried to find that documentary as my recollection runs that the radioactivity released from the Chernobyl site was only able to be stopped by burying the reactor core in sand, concrete and an outer shell called a sarcophagus.
There seem to be parallels with the current Deepwater Horizon disaster in that we are witnessing once more that man is capable of unleashing uncontrollable forces in his pursuit of energy. Forces he had no contingency plan to deal with. Forces capable of devastating economies, destroying livelihoods and killing wildlife by contaminating the environment to such an extent that even people find they have to move away rather than suffer.
That the only way that we have to fix it once that bottle is uncorked, was to just bury it in concrete. In Russia the reactor core was covered in sand then concrete. In the Gulf of Mexico disaster, first mud was tried, but once the relief wells are drilled, it will be likewise be filled with concrete.
Based on this I went looking for supporting evidence to back up this initial premise, and am astounded by what I found.
I came across a documentary in Russian, subtitled in same, but with a voice over in English, which appears to have been produced by National Geographic. The 6 videos run in total for about 45 minutes, but are the foundation around which I have built my comparison below, so really should be watched alongside the comparison.
Deepwater, Chernobyl, a comparison of man made energy related disasters
Disaster at Chernobyl part 1 of 6
This documentary starts off with a ticking time bomb clock, like that used in episodes of 24 signifying impending disaster.
Chernobyl : Reactor 4 was a new plant for Chernobyl which after passing a safety test it would be going into full production.
Deepwater : This was a new well for BP which after being capped and passing a safety test, a different rig would float into place and the well would be in full production.
Chernobyl : An argument between senior power station operations staff and an overseer on how the plant operation would proceed erupted leading up to the Chernobyl explosion
Deepwater : An argument between Drilling operations staff and visiting BP overseers on how the plant operation would proceed leading up to the Deepwater Horizon explosion
Chernobyl : Out of sight design flaws with the plant were unknown to power plant operations staff in the Chernobyl plant
Deepwater : Out of sight well capping, cementing (and possibly design) flaws with the well/bore were unknown to drilling rig operations staff on the Deepwater Horizon
Disaster at Chernobyl part 2 of 6
Chernobyl : This particular test was being ordered from on high, by the owners of the plant, the Soviet Government
Deepwater : This expedited change from a drilling rig to a production rig was being ordered from on high, by the owners of the well, BP
Chernobyl : The argument by the non-operator in the control room with the operations staff, was won by him primarily as he saw no-one as his equal. Because he was a creature of the system. A party man. Who took shortcuts and risks when needed.
Deepwater : The argument by the visiting BP staff with the rig staff was won by them. Was it because they saw no-one as their equals, were company men there taking risk when needed? Time will tell.
Rig survivors: BP ordered shortcut on day of blast
BP won the argument, said Doug Brown, the rig's chief mechanic. "He basically said, 'Well, this is how it's gonna be.' "
Chernobyl : The Chief Engineer who ordered this test was home in bed
Deepwater : The Management staff who ordered the expediting drill to production rig were ???
Chernobyl : There were fishermen watching the plant from afar
Deepwater : There were fishermen watching the rig from a distance
This next video I have edited out a section as when I saw this I was shocked at the similarities. Please watch.
Chernobyl : A fateful decision by management, against operations recommendation, to remove the control rods from the reactor eventually led to a condition where the engineers were no longer able to apply the brakes and control the reactor.
Deepwater : A fateful decision by management, against operations recommendation, to prematurely remove mud from the drill string eventually led to a condition where the drilling engineers were no longer able to control the well pressure.
Disaster at Chernobyl part 3 of 6
Chernobyl : Following the argument being won by outside management, the procedure ordered to remove the rods is implemented, there is a period of calm where things return to normal. Although the operations staff did not like the procedure, the fear of getting sacked has encouraged them to fall into line.
Deepwater : Following the argument being won by outside management, the procedure ordered to remove the mud is implemented, there is a period of calm where things return to normal. Although the operations staff did not like the procedure, the fear of getting sacked has encouraged them to fall into line.
Once again if you are not following along or have not watched the entire video, please watch this clip as it is important.
Chernobyl : There was a culture of negligence and coverup within the organization responsible for the power station. Shortcuts were taken, incorrect materials used, construction flaws introduced as a result. Safety came second it seemed for the management.
Deepwater : Can one say that this has been demonstrated to be the case for BP?
Chernobyl : Following years of getting away with treating safety as an option, the Chickens finally did come home to roost.
Deepwater : Ditto for BP.
Chernobyl : Unbeknownst to operations staff uncontrollable pressure is building at the bottom of the reactor as a result of the actions they were ordered to take in removing the control rods earlier.
Deepwater : Unbeknownst to operations staff uncontrollable pressure is building at the bottom of the well as a result of the actions they were ordered to take in removing the mud earlier.
Disaster at Chernobyl part 4 of 6
Chernobyl : One reason for pushing the test was power station politics where the engineer who ordered it wished to see a success in order to impress the higher ups.
Deepwater : Was a reason for rushing the changeover as a result of company politics where the person who ordered it wished to see a success in order to save money and time after so many costly delays on this well?
Disaster at Chernobyl part 5 of 6
Chernobyl : At the point where the operations staff realize this is out of control, they attempt an emergency shutdown only to have this fail due an unknown condition with rod insertion.
Deepwater : At the point where the drill operations staff see a kick, the Blow out preventer should have initiated an emergency shutdown only to have this fail due to a number of prior issues with the BOP (rubber seal, flat battery, no acoustic switch, leaking hydraulics all have been mentioned)
Chernobyl : The operator is genuinely shocked the emergency shutdown failed.
Deepwater : A moments silence
Chernobyl : Steam pressure cannot be contained. Like a volcanic pressure cooker. There is an initial blast followed by a secondary blast which blows the 1500 ton safety cap off the building. Massive plumes of radiation and gases begin emitting into the atmosphere with the stench of death.
Deepwater : Well pressure cannot be contained. Like a volcano oil and gas rush to the surface. There is an initial release followed by a secondary blast when the gas finds an ignition source setting the rig on fire. After the rig sinks, massive plumes of oil and gas begin gushing into the ocean with the creep of slow death.
Disaster at Chernobyl part 6 of 6
There is probably a better video of the projected oil spill trajectory and please link if you know of one. But you can see the similarities.
Containment planning for Chernobyl - reenactment
What came from that containment planning eventually was a sarcophagus.
Deepwater Horizon version
What was known by management, but never given due consideration as happening again? Thus there was no contingency planned for this eventuality.
Chernobyl : Sometime before Chernobyl it was witnessed at another of the Soviet Unions reactors at Ignalina, that insertion of the Boron Control rods caused a power spike at the moment they contacted the water. This information was not relayed to operators at Chernobyl.
Deepwater : In August of last year a well started leaking uncontrollably in Australian waters, it could not be controlled for almost 3 months. Eventually after 5 tries to find the bore with a relief well, the rig caught fire, and finally it was capped.
BP's Gulf Gusher, 'I've seen this movie before', 8 months ago
Like the Soviets thought of Ignalina, American leaders believed another West Atlas could never happen again
Mary Landrieu Minimized Potential For Spill And Impact Of Damage (VIDEO)
You said it was the largest spill in Australia's history. It's true. It leaked 823,000 gallons of oil. As Mr. Cruickshank testified, it wouldn't even be allowed in this country because it doesn't stand up to our strict environmental rules.
I mean, just the gallons are so minuscule compared to the benefits of U.S. strength and security, the benefits of job creation and energy security. So while there are risks associated with everything, I think you understand that they are quite, quite minimal.
One final comment
"I think in both a symbolic and a very real way, Chernobyl was the beginning of the end for the Soviet Union. I think in a symbolic way, the melt down and explosion was caused by all the inherent contradictions in the Soviet System. And therefore its a very good paradigm, a symbol of what was to happen."
At some point will America take a long hard look at the lessons of the past and how they reflect on what has just happened?
Will they make the right decisions to take steps to reduce the risk of this ever happening again? For if history is anything to go by, you can't keep repeating the same old habits and expect a different outcome.
Is weakening the ability of those who have America's best interests at heart when it comes to preventing accidents like this by reducing the need for partaking in risky ventures, the right way forward?
That last comment made about Chernobyl is really up to Americans and whether their leaders can make decisions on energy which are in every American's best interests.
Chernobyl Surviving Disaster - BBC Documentary Part 1
Chernobyl Surviving Disaster - BBC Documentary series Part 2
Chernobyl Surviving Disaster - BBC Documentary Part 3