Twenty-five years ago today, I was working on the chemistry of flame and flame suppressants. I got a phone call (not much use of e-mail then) from the Los Alamos Director's Office to attend a meeting on the events at Chernobyl. That phone call probably came a day or two later; it took some time for the world to realize what was happening in the secretive Soviet Union.
It turned out that there wasn't much I could contribute; dumping limestone, boron compounds, and other solids on the smoking reactor zombie was probably the best path and what was eventually done.
The Guardian has an article on what I've been thinking, as a result of my forays into the BEIR VII report: much more research is needed into the consequences of Chernobyl. The terrible numbers you will read in some places today are almost certainly incorrect; BEIR VII concludes that the results are pretty much what might have been expected, except for a higher number of thyroid cancer cases. Chernobyl is located in an area that historically has seen high incidence of goiter, a result of iodine deficiency, which may be part of the reason for those additional thyroid cancer cases.
I'm half-listening to a White House conference on energy security as I write this. Nice words are being said, especially by Jane Harmon, formerly of Congress and now at the Woodrow Wilson Institute, about the complementary roles of industry and the national laboratories. Conservatives and the business community, however, haven't allowed that to be the case for thirty years or so. Back in that Chernobyl time, I was fighting off arguments that industry could do what I was doing much better. They eventually, with the aid of internal fighting within the DOE complex, won. And, twenty-five years on, the technology I was working on is as dead as it was when I came to it in 1986, also under the influence of industry.
So I'm not holding my breath that we'll learn what we could about radiation hazards from Chernobyl. The Republicans would probably eliminate all research, so that they can make their cases unimpeded by fact. And beeee veeery afraaaid of the deficit!
Some more links about Chernobyl from Dan Yurman.
The Women of Chernobyl. Some things to think about in balancing radiation risks against having to abandon one's home.
Not about Chernobyl specifically, but a ridiculous result of some of the fear about stuff people don't understand.