UCRAINA

Chernobyl
Reattore n° 4

26 Aprile 1986. Esplode il reattore numero quattro della centrale nucleare situata in Ucraina. E’ il disastro.

La centrale di Chernobyl si trova vicino all’insediamento di Pripyat, in Ucraina, 18 km a nord-ovest della città di Chernobyl e 110 km a nord della capitale Kiev, e dista 16 km dal confine con la Bielorussia.

L’impianto composto da quattro reattori, ognuno in grado di produrre 1 GW di energia elettrica (3.2 gigawatt di energia termica), produceva circa il 10% dell’elettricità ucraina. La costruzione iniziò negli anni ’70, il reattore numero uno nel 1977, e in seguito nel 1978 il numero due, nel 1981 il numero 3 e il quarto nel 1983.

Quando si verificò l’incidente altri due reattori da 1 GW erano in costruzione.

I reattori erano di tipo RBMK-1000, un reattore a canali, moderato a grafite e refrigerato ad acqua. Una caratteristica di questo reattore è quella di operare a coefficiente di vuoto positivo. Praticamente, con l’aumentare della temperatura, la reazione nucleare anziché fermarsi diverge. Tale caratteristica è vietata nei reattori occidentali per motivi di sicurezza. Infatti se manca il liquido refrigerante, il reattore deve essere in grado di spegnersi automaticamente, senza interventi umani o di mezzi meccanici.

L’utilizzo era per la produzione di elettricità per uso civile e di plutonio ad uso militare. Ogni caratteristica era volta ad aumentarne l’efficienza a costo di diminuirne la sicurezza.

Chernobyl
Reattori n° 4-5
Innanzitutto la scelta della grafite come moderatore.

Questa sostanza viene utilizzata per moderare i neutroni e soprattutto per facilitare la produzione di Plutonio 239. Nei reattori civili occidentali si utilizzano leghe in zirconio. Per migliorare il trasferimento termico il reattore è a canali, tuttavia il progetto sovietico non teneva conto di contenere i tubi in altri tubi per motivi di sicurezza.

Infine venne utilizzata acqua naturale, per semplificare il progetto e per produrre direttamente vapore da convogliare alle turbine, senza circuiti intermedi. L’acqua e la grafite ad alte temperature reagiscono, liberando idrogeno.

Ore 01:23:58 locali è il 26 aprile 1986.

Durante una prova in cui si voleva verificare se la turbina potesse continuare a produrre energia per inerzia anche se il circuito di raffreddamento fosse stato incapace di produrre vapore, alcuni circuiti di emergenza vennero disabilitati. Prima l’impianto di raffreddamento secondario e poi quello principale e manualmente si tentò lo spegnimento del quarto reattore.

Chernobyl
Dopo pochi secondi, il reattore entrato in zona di instabilità, emise una potenza di circa cento volte superiore, la temperatura raggiunse i 700° C .

L’acqua reagì con la grafite, iniziò a decomporsi in idrogeno ed ossigeno dando inizio all’esplosione, che distrusse tutte le parti in muratura del reattore e liberò nell’aria tonnellate di materiali radioattivi, nella maggior parte residui di combustione atomica.Le autorità sovietiche inviarono immediatamente sul posto delle squadre di pulizia, vigili del fuoco furono mandati sul luogo dell’incidente per provare ad estinguere l’incendio, nessuno di loro fu messo al corrente della pericolosità. Nei mesi successivi membri dell’ esercito e altri lavoratori, furono coinvolti nei lavori di pulizia e di messa in sicurezza del sito. Anche queste persone non furono informate sui rischi e non avevano dispositivi di sicurezza, nemmeno tute protettive.

Chernobyl
I detriti radioattivi più pericolosi furono radunati dentro quello che rimaneva del reattore,

Fu poi coperto con sacchi di sabbia lanciati da elicotteri (circa 5.000 tonnellate di sabbia durante la settimana successiva all’incidente). Un enorme sarcofago d’acciaio fu eretto frettolosamente per sigillare il reattore e il suo contenuto.

Inizialmente il disastro fu tenuto nascosto.

La notizia non fu resa nota non da fonti sovietiche ma dalla Svezia dove il 27 aprile sugli indumenti di addetti della centrale nucleare di Forsmark furono rilevate particelle radioattive. Dopo avere constatato che nel loro impianto non c’erano perdite gli svedesi ricercarono l’origine della radioattività giungendo alla conclusione che si dovesse essere verificato qualche problema di natura nucleare in Unione Sovietica. Trentun persone morirono immediatamente, di cui ventotto per l’esposizione diretta alle radiazioni.

Chernobyl
Il cratere
135.000 abitanti furono evacuati dalla zona, inclusi tutti i 50.000 abitanti della vicina città di Pripyat.

La contaminazione provocata dall’ incidente di Chernobyl si diffuse irregolarmente secondo le condizioni atmosferiche. Ricerche condotte da scienziati sovietici ed occidentali indicarono che il 60% delle zone contaminate si trovava in Bielorussia. Anche una vasta area a sud di Bryansk, in Russia e parti dell’Ucraina nord-occidentale furono contaminate.

Secondo le stime dell’allora Unione Sovietica, nella pulizia dell’area evacuata furono impiegate tra le 300.000 e le 600.000 persone, molti dei quali però entrarono nella zona due anni dopo l’incidente.Il numero di addetti alla pulizia che lavorarono nella zona entro un anno dal disastro è stato stimato in 211.000, questi lavoratori ricevettero una dose media stimata di 165 millisievert (16.5 rem).

Chernobyl
In molti casi, come dimostrato dalle registrazioni tra gli elicotteristi e le centrali operative, i militari sovietici rifiutavano volontariamente il turn over, che avrebbe potuto metterli al riparo da conseguenze anche mortali.


Spesso questo accadde contravvenendo agli ordini.

Le conseguenze sui civili furono terrificanti. Alcuni bambini nelle zone colpite, bevendo il latte locale, assunsero iodio-131 con un assorbimento di radiazioni alla tiroide fino a 50 gray. Molti studi hanno rilevato che l’incidenza del cancro alla tiroide sui bambini bielorussi, ucraini e russi è aumentata sensibilmente. L’AIEA ha rilevato “1800 casi documentati di cancro alla tiroide in bambini che all’ epoca dell’ incidente avevano un’ età compresa tra 0 e 14 anni, dato di molto superiore alla media” ma non è riuscita a fare previsione sull’ incidenza futura del fenomeno.

Chernobyl
Subito dopo l’incidente la principale preoccupazione derivò dalla presenza nell’area di iodio-131, un isotopo radioattivo dall’emivita di 8 giorni.

Tuttavia il suolo era stato contaminato con stronzio-90 e cesio-137, che hanno un tempo di dimezzamento di circa 30 anni. I più alti valori di cesio-137 si trovavano sugli strati superficiali del terreno, che assorbiti da piante e funghi entrarono nella catena alimentare locale

E’ stato calcolato che l’incidente di Chernobyl ha rilasciato radiazioni 400 volte superiori a quelle della bomba caduta su Hiroshima.

Le autorità sovietiche iniziarono ad evacuare la popolazione dell’area circostante 36 ore dopo l’incidente. Circa un mese dopo tutti i residenti nel raggio di 30 km dall’impianto, circa 116.000 persone, erano stati trasferiti. Le attività intraprese da Bielorussia e Ucraina in seguito all’ incidente (bonifiche ambientali, evacuazioni e reinsediamenti, sviluppo di fonti alimentari non contaminate, misure sanitarie pubbliche) hanno pesato molto sui governi di questi paesi.

Agenzie internazionali e governi stranieri hanno fornito assistenza logistica ed umanitaria.

Inoltre grazie agli sforzi della Commissione Europea e dell’OMS per rafforzare le strutture di ricerca epidemiologica in Russia, Ucraina e Bielorussia si sono gettate le basi per consentire a questi stati in futuro di poter portare avanti studi epidemiologici autonomi.

Non è mai stato chiarito che fine abbia fatto l’enorme quantità di latte contaminato ucraino, rumeno, polacco e bielorusso che avrebbe dovuto essere distrutto e che, almeno in parte, era stato ridotto in polvere e probabilmente redistribuito attraverso l’industria dolciaria e casearia.

I problemi alla centrale di Chernobyl non finirono con il disastro avvenuto nel reattore numero quattro.

Il governo ucraino continuò a mantenere operativi i tre reattori rimanenti a causa della scarsità di energia elettrica nel paese. Nel 1991 divampò un incendio nel reattore numero due. In seguito le autorità lo dichiararono danneggiato irreparabilmente e fu chiuso.

Il reattore numero uno fu decommissionato nel novembre 1996 nell’ambito di accordi stipulati tra il governo ucraino e le organizzazioni internazionali come l’AIEA.

Il 15 Dicembre del 2000, con una cerimonia ufficiale, il presidente ucraino Leonid Kuchma premette personalmente l’interruttore per lo spegnimento del reattore numero tre, cessando definitivamente ogni attività nell’intero impianto.

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