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  • Rick LoPresti

Lessons from Chernobyl

"“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." George Santayana said this in "The Life of Reason" in 1905. Variations have been attributed to others such as Winston Churchill. The explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power facility in 1986 in the former Soviet Union, what led up to it, and the response to it, were illustrated in the documentary "Chernobyl". It has been lauded as accurate and well done. There are many lessons which can be taken from this incident. Even if the accuracy of this account is to be questioned, these lessons have been brought out over and over throughout history. The problem is that man never learns his lesson, and keeps repeating the same errors. The sinking of the Titanic in 1912, the nuclear meltdown at Three Mile Island in 1979, and the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan in 2011 have some similarities with Chernobyl. Here are some lessons drawn which we would do well to heed as they apply universally:

  1. Recklessly selfish ambition results in damage to everyone touched by it including the ambitious.

  2. Trying to maintain a false image is eventually self-defeating no matter how long it takes for that to come to pass.

  3. Devaluing human life is a grave error. Some worldviews such as atheism, evolution, and socialism have this component built in.

  4. Heroism should always be honored, but false heroism should be rejected.

  5. Cost cutting which ignores safety is a recipe for disaster.

  6. Convenience over diligence will come back to bite you eventually.

  7. Governments are too often guilty of disseminating false information.

  8. When politics trumps the best and right practices, it will defeat itself.

  9. Honest confession is better than a cover-up, and the sooner the better. Liars are eventually exposed. Public shame is not the goal, but truth and right are.

  10. Truth triumphs over lies in the end.

  11. Never underestimate the seriousness and consequences of ignoring these principles.

The Chernobyl incident had huge consequences that are still being felt over 35 years later. Thousands of people died either immediately or as the result of radiation poisoning. 335,000 people had to evacuated. 20,000 square miles of land was poisoned. The original temporary structure called the sarcophagus had to be replaced with a 2 billion dollar structure that is only meant to last 100 years, while the radiation will last for thousands. Russia is talking about making its own documentary countering the popular one, blaming the United States and the CIA for the disaster. Apparently, they have not learned any of the above lessons. This could cost the whole world as the issues at the power plant are not permanently solved. Revelation 8:10-11 says, "And the third angel sounded, and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters; And the name of the star is called Wormwood: and the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter." The word Chernobyl means wormwood. One of the biggest concerns during the response to the disaster was that the core of the reactor would melt through the cement under it and leak radiation into the ground water under that. That would contaminate the fresh water supply to many millions of people, probably forever. 400 miners had to dig a tunnel under the reactor to install a heat exchanger to prevent this. 100 of them died before they were 40 years old. Let us take heed to the above principles for ourselves and those we can influence. The world is the world and will always be, but the Word of God can make a difference to any individual who wants it to.

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