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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 (Chornobyl) 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. (Image: A helicopter sprays a decontamination liquid nearby the Chernobyl reactor in 1986. Source: IAEA Imagebank #02790036, via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 2.0.)

  • 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.

  • April 02, 1973

    Memo Report from the Head of the KGB Administration under the Ukr. SSR Council of Ministers for Kiev Oblast, Fesenko, to Comrade Tsybulko V.M., First Secretary of the Kiev Oblast Committee of the CP of Ukraine

    This document discusses the violation of technical rules of reinforcement and concrete work in the construction of the Chernobyl plant, concluding that these deficiencies will diminish the quality of the energy output.

  • July 24, 1973

    Memo Report from Tiutiunnik, Chief of the Kiev-Sviatoshinskii District Department of the KGB Administration, to the Acting Director of the KGB Administration, Comrade G.I. Glushakov

    The document reports on the violation of technical regulations process at Chernobyl nuclear power plant construction.

  • December 19, 1978

    Director of the Chernobyl District Department of the Ukr. SSR KGB Klockko, 'Information about Violations in the Construction of the Chernobyl Atomic Energy Station'

    The document explains violations of technological norms, labor laws, and assembly work at Chernobyl within one year of its official opening.

  • 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.

  • September 15, 1982

    Chair of the Committee of State Security [KGB] of the Ukrainian SSR to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine, 'Informational Message for 14 September 1982'

    The document discusses the number of foreigners who visited the Ukrainian SSR, rumored military training of OUN fighters in Southern England, the suspected murder of a Soviet ship captain in international waters, and a Unit 1 reactor accident at Chernobyl in 1982.

  • May 20, 1983

    Colonel A.I. Samoilov, Head of the 3rd Department of the 6th Service of the KGB Administration of the USSR for the City of Moscow, 'Information about Several Problems in the Use of Atomic Energy Stations in the USSR'

    This document discusses weaknesses in the technical designs of nuclear power plants in the USSR and their potential consequences, concluding that the Leningrad, Kursk, and Chernobyl plants are extremely dangerous.

  • March 01, 1984

    Report to M. Z. Banduristiy, the KGB Chief of the Ukrainian SSR in Kiev and the surrounding region on the emergency at the 3rd and 4th units of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant

    This report discusses to violations of reactor designs and the disintegration of load-bearing concrete due to extreme temperatures and improper wall insulation.

  • July 20, 1984

    Captain A. E. Nikifiorov, Operative Plenipotentiary of Division I, Department 2 of the Sixth Service USSR KGB Administration for Moscow and Moscow Oblast, 'Information about an Interview with Trusted Individual "Zh. V.A."'

    The document refers to a conversation with a specialist in nuclear energy, who explains how gaps at the joints of pipes are causing problems in the blocks at both the Chernobyl and Kursk plants.

  • August 14, 1984

    Report from Colonel M.A. Turko, Director of the 6th Department of the KGB Administration, to the Director of the Pripyat City Department of the Ukr. SSR KGB Administration for the City of Kiev and Kiev Oblast, Lieutenant Colonel Comrade Iu. V.

    This document summarizes the specialists' report on the lack of reliability of the reactors at Chernobyl, citing that the lack of protective layers and other structural flaws in the reactor that could lead to radioactive contamination and accidents.

  • April, 1986

    Recommendations and Some Information on the Conditions in the Zone of Increased Radiation in the City of Kiev

    This document lists the composition of the emissions in the air in Kiev, as well as sanitary and dietary recommendations believed to ease the impacts of radiation.

  • April 26, 1986

    Untitled notice about the categories of the population and body parts most susceptible to radiation

    This document discusses how radioactivity is measured, radiation safety norms and categories, and the permissible dose of radiation for different groups (i.e., accident responders, plant personnel, the regional population)

  • 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

    Notice from the Operative Plenipotentiary of the 2nd Division of the 6th Administration of the Ukr. SSR KGB

    The document refers to the detention of a civilian vehicle which exceeded the level of radiation permitted by the decontamination project of the Institute for Nuclear Research, USSR Academy of Sciences.

  • April 27, 1986

    Untitled notice on levels of radiation in Chernobyl NPP and steps taken in response

    The document refers to the level of radiation in the area affected and the measures undertaken for planned evacuations.

  • 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.