Saturday, 10 September 2016

Relic Environments Trilogy: Book II, Part 3.ii

from Book II, Part 3, Resurrection Suite


2. The Art of Painting Fire-Warriors

The two explosions sent fuel core components, structural items, and hot, highly radioactive debris a kilometre in the air, exposing the destroyed core. On the rising plume, fission products and virtually all the noble gas inventory were sent northwest on prevailing winds.

Fires started in what remained of the Unit 4 building. A hundred fire-fighters from Pripyat were needed, and it was this group that received the highest radiation exposures. A first group of fourteen firemen arrived at 1:28 a.m., with reinforcements following until about 4 a.m., the largest fires on the roof of the machine hall by then under control; but by then the graphite fire had started.

The intense heat of it dispersed radio-nuclides and fission fragments high into the atmosphere. A decision was made to layer the fire with large amounts of different materials, each one designed to combat a different feature of the fire and radioactive release.


In the inventory of deaths, our names
are missing, and the grief of mourners
is saved for others.
The wreath never laid, the music never played… 

The accident
that hides itself in chromosomes
lingers too in the party line, its sly dismissal of our lives
to lesser maladies.

The bureaucrats on long lunches
took steps, because of us they weighed
the advantages, trading us in kind.


The first measures consisted in dumping neutron-absorbing compounds and fire-control material into the crater left from the destruction of the reactor. The total amount of materials dumped was about 5,000 tonnes, including 40 tonnes of boron compounds, 2,400 of lead, 1,800 of sand and clay, and 600 of dolomite, as well as sodium phosphate and polymer liquids (Bu93). The emissions continued for about twenty days.


Our deaths, of course, annoyed them, our lives
described as reckless and extreme, a natural by-product
of error, in fatal repetition.

How many souls to balance the books?
How many noughts to make this desperation
come right?

We will never disappear, understand
we will never disappear, our sickness is deeper
than their lies, we will never be silent.

We will rise from our own graves,
from the earth itself, from the unchanging earth
that will not accept our burial.


While the conventional fires at the site posed no special fire-fighting problems, very high radiation doses were incurred by firemen, resulting in thirty-one deaths. Little national or international expertise on fighting graphite fires existed, and there was a very real fear that any attempt to put it out might well provoke a criticality excursion in the nuclear fuel.


Rest easy, stranger, out of time.

We all want something no longer possible,
a bit more room, a little breath
that tells of these things, of our
going out together.

This is the way it ends,
in the last of prayer and the last of pain.

Rest easy, stranger, out of time.

In the heaven we imagine,
a fiery tumour swells in the throats of the liars,
and as they choke, our corpses rise
and walk through the ruined towns.


About 150 tonnes of material were dumped on 27 April, followed by 300 tonnes on April 28, 750 tonnes on April 29, 1,500 tonnes on April 30, 1,900 tonnes on May 1, and 400 tonnes on May 2.

About 1,800 helicopter flights were carried out to dump materials onto the reactor. During the first flights, the helicopter remained stationary over the reactor while dumping materials. As the dose rates received by the helicopter pilots during this procedure were too high, it was decided that the materials should be dumped while the helicopters travelled over the reactor. This procedure caused additional destruction of the standing structures and spread the contamination.

While it was later discovered that many of these compounds were not actually dropped on the target, they may have acted as thermal insulators and precipitated an increase in the temperature of the core, leading to a further release of radio-nuclides a week later.


How is it possible
that I am alive?

I stagger on,
remembering
happiness
that was stalked.

In my thirtieth year
a wet-rot of corpses
crowding my soul.

Harder now to breathe,
I can no longer
hear
my spirit’s own song.

I am poorly
in this silence, its dull
distraction.

How shall I fly,
crippled now,
weary with roads?
Though I reach out
to heaven’s edge,
how shall I soar?

Here are my goodbyes.
In the sky
I recognise faces of those
who are remembered
beyond this nothingness.

Still, the soul remains.

Everything whole,
everything of it, present,
everything of it, in its first
completeness.

How shall we recall what cannot be forgotten?

I know my duty.
The weight
of it sacrosanct, I hold it to my heart.
So may we all be obliged.


The further sequence of events is still speculative, although elucidated with the observation of residual damage to the reactor. It is suggested that the melted core materials settled to the bottom of the core shaft with the fuel, forming a metallic layer below the graphite.

On day eight after the accident, the corium melted through the lower biological shield and flowed onto the floor, enhancing the radio- nuclide releases, and on contact with water, the corium produced steam, causing an increase of radio-nuclides at the last stage of the active period.

By May 9, the graphite fire had been extinguished, and work began on a massive reinforced concrete slab with a built-in cooling system beneath the reactor. This involved digging a tunnel from underneath Unit 3. About four hundred people worked on this tunnel, which was completed in fifteen days, allowing the installation of the concrete slab. This slab would not only be of use to cool the core if necessary, it would also act as a barrier to prevent penetration of melted radioactive material into the groundwater.


I continue to the last.
                                                                                                                         
Endless time, I know you better now.
I am dizzy with the thought
of last goodbyes.

Whom shall I adore?

You, stranger, by chance
passing?

I shall never know you, except
in your smile, the wry, sidelong look.

Your eyes follow me, bewildered
by my love for you.
This pointless love,
focusing through the stark silence
of abandoned villages,
the absurdity of grudges
and confessional splendour.

Fortune is a trifling thing, success, too.

The pining for wealth, paltry.

How much for last year’s snow? Tell me
the worth of what has passed your understanding
of humanity.

This is my joy, returning home
to my friends, kinship’s debt, for once
without thinking of the ashes
of my home, or the burden
of bowing down.

What life is left to me?
What days
remain?

A month is ash in my hand.

Here is love,
my world robed in brightness.
Why now,
this fire and breathlessness?

Everything burns,
burns.

After the interrogations,
even the ashes disappeared.

Yet the soul lives on, the ashes
that disappeared
rise up, reckless with new life.

So shall breath, so shall I live.

I am standing in cool flame.
Inferno, I step forward
for you.

Your hands, merciful.

My love, to protect you,
here is heaven’s broad shield.



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