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Ukraine Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station, Ukraine - October 2019

AndyK!

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It's not every day you get to visit a nuclear power station, especially one of such notoriety as this! I'd visited the exclusion zone 5 or so years ago, but at that time we were not permitted access into the plant itself, so when the opportunity to have a look inside, including the rarely seen control room of the exploded unit 4 presented itself, I realised this was well worth another visit.

We didn't get to see the turbines on this occasion, and by the sound of it they have been busy ripping them apart to scrap the metal. I’d have liked to have seen those, but you know, you can see turbines at any power station - this was all about nuclear reactors and control room 4!

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The monument commemorating those who lost their lives in the Chernobyl disaster standing in front of reactor 4, as seen in 2014 before the NSC was moved into position


History of Chernobyl Power Plant

The Vladimir Ilyich Lenin Nuclear Power Plant, commonly referred to as Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, owing to its close proximity to the town of that name, consisted of four RBMK-1000 reactors, each capable of producing 1,000 megawatts (MW) of electric power (3,200 MW of thermal power), and the four together produced about 10% of Ukraine's electricity at the time of the disaster. Construction of the plant and the nearby city of Pripyat to house workers and their families began in 1970, with reactor No. 1 commissioned in 1977. The completion of the first reactor in 1977 was followed by reactor No. 2 in 1978, No. 3 in 1981, and No. 4 in 1983.

Electrical energy was generated by a pair of 500 MW hydrogen-cooled turbo generators. These were located in the 600 metre-long machine hall, adjacent to the reactor building. The turbines were five-cylinder K-500-65/3000 and the electrical generators were TBB-500’s.

Reactors No. 3 and 4 were second generation units, whereas No. 1 and 2 were first-generation units. Second-generation RBMK designs were fitted with a more secure containment structure visible in photos of the facility.

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Turbines in the Machine Hall, before the accident

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Cross section of the power plant

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The power plant in 2019, with a new mural named "Looking into the Future", painted by Valeriy Korshunov on the eastern wall


Accident and Decommissioning

On April 26, 1986, the Chernobyl disaster occurred at reactor No. 4, caused by a catastrophic power increase resulting in core explosions and open-air fires. This caused large quantities of radioactive materials and airborne isotopes to disperse in the atmosphere and surrounding land.

The disaster has been widely regarded as the worst accident in the history of nuclear power. As a result, Reactor No. 4 was completely destroyed, and shortly after enclosed in a concrete and lead sarcophagus, followed more recently by a large steel confinement shelter, to prevent further escape of radioactivity. Large areas of Europe were affected by the accident. The radioactive cloud spread as far away as Norway.

After the explosion at reactor No. 4, the remaining three reactors at the power plant continued to operate.

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Unit 4 before and immediately after the accident in 1986

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The reactor building of unit 3 and the New Safe Confinement (NSC) positioned over unit 4


Unit 3 Reactor Hall

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The nuclear reactor during commissioning. Workers are handling fuel rods without protection, as they emit only a low dose of radiation before use

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View over the reactor top. Each square block is a reactor channel, each of which contained a nuclear fuel rod when in use. The fuel has since been removed.

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This machine enabled the reactor to be refuelled whilst in use

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Selfie on the nuclear reactor! :cool:


Control Rooms

The control rooms of each unit are positioned centrally between the machine hall and the reactor halls. A long corridor known as "The Golden Corridor" connects all the control rooms.

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The Golden Corridor

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Tiled floor of the golden corridor. Entrance to control rooms on the left.


Control Room 2

Control rooms 1 and 2 were identical, controlling the two first-generation units.

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Control Room 3

Control rooms 3 and 4 were identical, operating the two second-generation units. Some modifications were made to control room 3 after the accident, but this is pretty much how unit 4 would have also looked.

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The infamous AZ-5 button (labelled A3-5 in Russian)

Control Room 4

Where it all happened!
This is the room in which operators attempted to run the safety test and pushed the reactor to its limits. The AZ-5 shutdown procedure was then activated, which, unknown to the operators had a fatal flaw, triggering the explosion and meltdown of the reactor.

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Unit 4 Control Room before the accident

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Computer Room

The process computer for the RBMK nuclear reactors prior to October 1995 was SKALA (from the Russian which translates to "Control system of the devices of the Leningrad Nuclear Power Plant"). Dating back to the 1960s, it used magnetic core memory, magnetic tape data storage, and punched tape for loading software.

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Command station with CCCP book on the desk


Main Circulation Pumps

The MCPs were responsible for ensuring a constant stream of water entered the reactor to remove the heat. During operation the heat turned the water to steam for use in the turbines. While the reactor was in a shutdown state, water was still required to keep it cool.

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This memorial is dedicated to Valery Khodemchuk who was the senior operator of the main circulation pumps at the time of the accident. His body was never found.


Unit 5

Two more blocks, numbered five and six, of more or less the same reactor design, were planned at a site roughly a kilometre from the contiguous buildings of the four older blocks. Reactor No. 5 was around 70% complete at the time of block 4's explosion and was scheduled to come online approximately six months later, on November 7, 1986. In the aftermath of the disaster, the construction on No. 5 and No. 6 were suspended, and eventually cancelled in April 1989, just days before the third anniversary of the 1986 explosion. 6 further reactors were planned on the other side of the river. All 12 reactors were planned to be running until 2010.

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Exterior of Unit 5

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Inside unit 5 was a bit of a mess - anything of value has been salvaged and metal scrapping is ongoing

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Units 1-4 and the New Safe Confinement, as viewed from the roof of Unit 5​
 
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The_Raw

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Looks like an awesome trip mate. My guide from 5 years ago was only allowed into the reactor hall and control room a few months ago so it's a pretty rare achievement to make it in there. I have a feeling they will be allowing more and more groups in the future
 

Andy

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This report and your pics are simply awesome. This is by far the best report I've ever seen from there.
 
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