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Digital Archive International History Declassified

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Chernobyl Nuclear Accident, 1986

The disastrous meltdown in the 4th reactor of the Chernobyl Atomic Electrical Station occurred on April 26th, 1986. This collection contains Ukrainian and national KGB reports, Communist Party directives, and Ukrainian Academy of Science measurements which discuss technical issues with the plant, details of the accident, and emergency responses across the republic. It shows that updates from the construction site and first few years of plant operation were dire as early as the 1970s. The collection also demonstrates that the government failed to inform the public of the true scope of radiation damage for years after the accident. Adam Higgonbotham, author of Midnight in Chernobyl, introduces parts of the collection in an essay for Sources & Methods. See also the Digital Archive collection on Ukrainian Nuclear History.

  • February 02, 1967

    V.V. Shcherbytsky, Head of the Council of Ministers of the Ukrainian SSR, to the Central Committee of the Ukrainian Communist Party

    Address of the Council of Ministers of Ukrainian SSR to the Central Committee of the Ukrainian Communist Party confirming the site for the construction of the the 2000mW ‘Central Ukrainian Nuclear Power Plant’ near the village Kopachi, Chornobyl district, Kyiv region.

  • July 02, 1980

    B.Y. Paton, President of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences, to the Council of Ministers of the Ukrainian SSR, 'On the Viability of the Construction of Chernobyl Block 2'

    Assessing the impact of building a second block at Chernobyl NPP, further research is needed to study: water diffusion after "flushing" will cause contamination that can reach Kiev; movement of flushed filtering water and ecological consequences; process of radionuclide collection to determine chance of mutations; microclimate changes due to heat releases and water demands. Plant will cover energy demand until 1992-1993, by 1985 can recommend further NPP building.

  • April 26, 1986

    V.P. Bryukhanov, Director of Chernobyl NPP, 'On the Accident at V. I. Lenin Chernobyl NPP'

    A brief report of the facts of the accident, including death of one unnamed person, hospitalization of 34, including 9 fireman, disappearance of the chief reactor operator Khodemchuk. Followed by reporting radiation levels in the aftermath of the accident.

  • April 27, 1986

    P.P. Volkov's Report to the Central Committee of Ukrainian Communist Party

    Evacuation order received at 20.00 on April 26, vehicle columns sent from Kiev to Chernobyl at 23.25, containing 1125 buses and 250 lorries, arriving at 4.00 on April 27. Evacuation of Pripyat began at 13.30 on April 27.

  • April 27, 1986

    I. Gladush, Minister of the Interior, to the Central Committee of the Ukrainian Communist Party

    A narrative account of the Chernobyl accident that describes the activities of Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukrainian SSR (MVD) and security services in liquidating the aftermath of the Chernobyl accident and preparing Pripyat's evacuation.

  • April 28, 1986

    Untitled report by Lt. Col. V.P. Alekseyev and Major V.D. Kohan on Radiation Levels

    Info on radiactive fallout, and that Kiev is currently safe and being observed by experts, while Pripyat has 30-160 micro roentgens/sec, and Rivne Oblast has 820 micro roentgens per hour. From emergency 91 hospitalized people sent to Moscow, and 54 to Kiev and Kiev Oblast.

  • April 29, 1986

    Telegram Sent from 6th Clinical Hospital, Moscow, to Vera Sergeyevna Toptunovoa

    Letter to mother and address of hospital in Moscow, where he is located

  • April 29, 1986

    A. Serdyuk, 'Some First Priority Questions in connection with the Situation in the Region of the Chernobyl AEhS'

    The report covers the issue of radiactive fallout following the accident, evacuation procedure, and number of hospitalized.

  • April 30, 1986

    Seventh Directorate of the MIA of the USSR to the Minister of Internal Affairs of the Ukrainian SSR, Colonel-General Gladush I.D., 'Report on the Results of the Study of Public Opinion in connection with the Accident at the Chernobyl AEhS'

    The report notifies the MIA about the public opinion and rumors regarding the Chernobyl accident in several Ukraininan cities.

  • April 30, 1986

    Deputy Minister of Health to the Council of Ministers of the Ukrainian SSR, 'Concerning Measures being carried out to Provide Medical Aid to the Population during the Elimination of the Consequences of the Accident at Chernobyl AEhS'

    Kasyanenko writes about the gamma radiation levels in Kiev, Kiev Oblast and other regions of Ukraine. In the end he suggest sanitation and decide on the issue of informing the public.

  • May 21, 1986

    VCh Message from Moscow, dated 18:20, 21 May 1986

    Sent by Deputy Minister Shchepin, the telegram states that those who are under observation for radiation exposure, but who do not show signs of serious radiation sickness, will be discharged with a diagnosis of “vegetative-vascular dystonia”. Those who have been diagnosed with radiation poisoning of higher degrees will be given the diagnosis “serious radiation sickness from associated exposure to radiation” with notes on its level of severity and specific details of complications, including radiation burns.

  • June 11, 1986

    The Situation and Measures to Eliminate the Consequences of the Accident at the Chernobyl AEhS as of 12 June 1986

    The report covers the radiation conditions in Kiev Oblast as of 12th June 1986. In addition, it covers decontamination process, public security and well-being, transportation and calls for speed up building of sarcophagus.

  • July 28, 1986

    List of Information Subject to Classification concerning Questions Associated with the Accident at Unit Nº 4 of the Chernobyl AEhS (ChAEhS)

    An archival summary of the level of secrecy attached to various types of information about the Chernobyl NPP accident, the vast majority of which are classified as "Secret."

  • September 24, 1987

    Decision Nº 123 of a Government Commission concerning a List of Information about the Chernobyl AEhS Subject to Classification and Not Subject to Open Publication

    The decision that was made in cooperation with ofter Ministries and deparments on what to classify and what to exlude from open publications. Includes attachement that contains the data list.

  • November 16, 1987

    Y.I. Chazov, Minister of Health, to the CPSU CC, 'Medical Aspects of the Accident at Chernobyl AEhS'

    A summary of the measures taken by health ministries in the aftermath of the accident, laid out in narrative format.

  • July 17, 1989

    Letter from Aleksakhin and Annenkov to Gorbachev and Rykov

    Letter from director and deputy of the National Radiology and Agroecology Research Institute, being ready to lead the process of agricultural decontamination to reclaim irradiated land in 30 km exlcusion zone. In addition, they argue that there is no lack of competent specialists, contaty to the talks in Congress of People's Deputies of the Soviet Union.

  • August 12, 1993

    V.N. Shcherbin, Ukrainian Academy of Sciences, 'Concerning the Situation at the 4th Unit'

    An outline of the reasons for the deterioration of the 4th block, largely owing to ventilation problems causing condensation to form, which freezes during winter and causes decay that can lead to the washing of nuclear particles into the surrounding atmosphere/groundwater. The report also proposes several emergency measures, such as improving ventilation systems, cleaning water from the block, and setting up of an investigation.