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7 The Chernobyl disasters Its effect on Belarus and Ukraine

David R. Marples

The accident and its immediate aftermath
The affected community
Regeneration and recovery
Towards a model for nuclear and industrial accidents
Suggestions for a general model of recovery from industrial accidents
Media sources


The Chernobyl disaster began at 1.23 a.m. on Saturday 26 April 1986, in a civilian nuclear power station of Kiev1 Oblast (province) in the (then) Ukrainian SSR (Soviet Socialist Republic). A chemical explosion at the station's fourth reactor and an uncontrolled graphite fire that followed led to the release of more than 450 radionuclides, comprising about 3.5 per cent of the fuel stored in the reactor core. Official reports put the immediate death toll at 31, but it is widely believed that many more died in the first hours and weeks after the explosion. The Ukrainian government has estimated the number of deaths among clean-up workers alone as 7,000-8,000. Total civilian casualties are not known and may never be known. Although nuclear radiation is no longer leaking from the damaged reactor into the atmosphere, this event is far from over. Its repercussions will continue well into the next century, sometimes in places far distant from the point of origin. There are those who believe that this was a unique occurrence in the history of civilian nuclear power. However, it is difficult to judge such a claim because the context in which it occurred was highly unusual. The disaster took place in a country on the brink of social upheaval, with a political administration that was to undertake major reforms under a new leader. These factors strongly affected the way the event was reported and the subsequent responses.

This chapter opens with an account of the background to Chernobyl and a summary of the immediate responses. The early dominant role of the Soviet Union's governmental apparatus is emphasized, including the limitations of President Mikhail Gorbachev's glasnost policy. The process of longer-term regeneration and recovery is then discussed in the context of the breakup of the Soviet system and the emergence of two of the new independent republics - Belarus and Ukraine. Similarities and differences among the approaches of various institutional actors and post-Soviet regimes are noted. Theoretical issues are the focus of the third section of the chapter. An outline model of nuclear power disasters is proposed, based on the experience of other disasters in the Soviet Union and the global nuclear power industry as well as Chernobyl.

Finally, I offer a series of recommendations for improving recovery from nuclear accidents and other industrial emergencies. These include the creation of registries for populations in the vicinity of hazardous facilities, and an international system for providing expertise and material assistance in the event of disasters that involve advanced industrial technologies whose effects exceed existing national coping capacities. While there may be no adequate way to avoid surprises like Chernobyl, it is clear that the Chernobyl experience was made much worse by failures of the government and the ruling political party in the weeks and months after the accident, and by broader economic and political changes that began in the period 1986-1991 and continue into the severe economic crisis of the post-Soviet era.

The accident and its immediate aftermath

The accident is "under control"
Focus on the West
International cooperation

The town of Chernobyl is situated about 110 miles north of Kiev, the modern capital of Ukraine, and just to the west of Chernigov Oblast, the site of the original seventeenth-century Ukrainian state (fig. 7.1).2 It was founded in the twelfth century and remained small for most of the next 800 years. By 1986, Chernobyl's population had reached 10,000 and the town was officially classified as a radon (district) in northern Kiev Oblast.

A paved road connects Kiev with Chernobyl and runs through a series of small peasant villages. The nuclear power station is located about 12 miles north of Chernobyl. Two miles further on lies the town of Pripyat, one of several "nuclear" communities built in the 1970s for employees of the station, their families, service personnel, and fire crews. Like most Soviet towns, Pripyat consists of high-rise apartment blocks. It possesses a fairground and two soccer pitches, but no church. At the time of the accident, Pripyat's population was estimated at 45,000 and growing. Eight miles north of Pripyat stands the border between Ukraine and the Gomel Oblast of the Republic of Belarus (then the Byelorussian SSR). To the north-east lies the Bryansk Oblast of Russia.

Fig. 7.1 The regional setting of Chernobyl

This is an area of small towns and villages. The nearest large settlements within a hundred miles are Chernigov (Ukraine, population 270,000) and Gomel (Belarus, population 500,000).3 They lie near the junction of the Pripyat and Uzh rivers, both of which feed the massive Kiev Reservoir. It is from this reservoir that the Dnieper River winds southward to the Black Sea, neatly bisecting the Republic of Ukraine. Nearby also are the Poles'ye (Pripyat Marshes), an area of sparsely inhabited, unproductive agricultural land and sandy podzolic soil that was once considered a natural barrier against invasion of the USSR from the west.4 The area's population speaks a native patois that combines Russian, Belarusian, and Ukrainian. Families that lived in these settlements in early 1986 were also of mixed origin and rarely saw themselves as one nationality or another. Indeed, for most purposes other than political jurisdiction, the Ukrainian-Belarusian border was very much an irrelevance. People's connections were rather with their villages of origin, wherever they were located.

The collectivization of Soviet agriculture, the purges of Stalin, and two world wars had not fundamentally changed the villagers' way of life. They remained members of simple potato-farming communities who were suspicious of outsiders. Health care facilities were negligible, doctors few, and communications with major centres were often impaired by poor roads and rail links. Since the 1970s, in Ukraine, there had been a general exodus of young people to the cities, so village populations were predominantly elderly and the amount of cultivated land was shrinking. In contrast, the population of Pripyat was young, with an average age of only 27 years.

In 1986, the Chernobyl nuclear power station contained two completed sets of twin reactors and a third (unfinished) set, some 400 metres away. It was the oldest of Ukraine's nuclear power plants, and the only one of the graphite-moderated (RBMK, as opposed to water-pressurized - VVER) design.5 The RBMK's original function was the production of materials for the Soviet nuclear weapons programme, but it was adapted to civilian usage by the 1970s. Other Soviet RBMKs were located in Russia - at Kursk (a twin of Chernobyl), St. Petersburg (the first reactor of this type in the USSR), and Smolensk - and in Lithuania at Ignalina. Except for Ignalina (1500 megawatts), all had a standard 1,000 megawatts capacity. Although the Soviet authorities planned to phase out the RBMK reactor in favour of the more widely used VVER type, it still generated the majority of the USSR's nuclear-produced electricity at the time of the Chernobyl disaster.

The Chernobyl station was part of a programme for rapid expansion of nuclear energy production in the Soviet Union. This was centred on Ukraine, partly because of available water supplies. To the west of Chernobyl were located the Rovno and Khmelnitsky stations, to the south-east were Zaporozhye and Nikolaev (South Ukraine), all of which were to be expanded to accommodate VVER-1000 reactors during the period covered by the 1986-1990 plan. Several other power stations were under construction, including one in the Crimea and another at Chigirin. Both of the latter had caused public concern Crimea because the station was located on the Kerch Peninsula (a seismically active region), and Chigirin because the station was located on the already overused Dnieper River in an area of Ukrainian national heritage off limits to the public.

Most of the problems associated with the Chernobyl station before April 1986 were related to construction or labour. Recent revelations suggest that these were serious enough to constitute a danger to the environment. For example, as early as 1979, a KGB report outlined various defects in construction of the first reactor unit, as follows:

Deputy head of the Construction Directorate, Comrade V.T. Gora, gave instructions for backfilling the foundation in many places where vertical waterproofing was damaged. Similar violations were permitted in other sections with the knowledge of Comrade V.T. Gora and the head of the construction group, Comrade IU. L. Matveev. Damage to the waterproofing can lead to ground water seepage into the station and radioactive contamination of the environment. (USSR Committee for State Security [KGB] 1979)

The document from which this quote is taken remained secret until 1992, but numerous other construction flaws and accidents have been revealed by a variety of sources, from the critical Ukrainian newspaper, Literaturna Ukraina, to the former Soviet dissident scientist, Zhores Medvedev.6 The construction defects were a sign of the erratic way in which Soviet industry generally operated and they show that even buildings of military significance were not immune to problems. In order to comprehend the initial Soviet reaction to Chernobyl, it is necessary to outline briefly the operation of the Soviet bureaucracy in this sphere.

Although the Chernobyl station is located in Ukraine, it was completely subordinate to ministries based in Moscow. In theory, the most important of these was the USSR Ministry of Power and Electrification, which also possessed a Ukrainian "branch." The Ministry of Power was responsible for energy-producing industries, and for meeting the demands of the Five-Year Plan in the energy sector. Its control therefore extended to the three main types of power stations - thermal, hydroelectric, and atomic. Initially, its key concern was with thermal power stations, that were predominantly coal fired. As late as 1975, these supplied 86 per cent of all electricity generated in the Soviet Union (Energetika SSSR v 1976-1980 godakh 1977: 11). The ministry's control was limited, however, in those sectors of nuclear energy that were connected with the military (i.e. stations that were, or had at one time been, part of the atomic weapons programme). Such stations were administered by the USSR Ministry of Medium Machine Building. Even today, while it is obvious that the machine ministry had some control over Chernobyl, the division of responsibilities with the Ministry of Power is unclear. Most of the significant political dismissals resulting from Chernobyl occurred in these two ministries.

According to Soviet propaganda, the country's nuclear industry was "accident-free." Moreover, it was assumed that, unlike in the West, an accident could not happen. Hence, accident preparation was minimal. The station, like its counterparts elsewhere in the Soviet Union, lacked protective clothing, Geiger counters to monitor radiation, and a code of conduct that could be followed in the event of a serious accident. There appear to have been adequate preparations only for "incidents" such as the outbreak of a fire at the station or minor injuries to work personnel. Such laxity also extended to the regime within the station. Individual operators clearly were permitted to dismantle vital safety devices. The roof of the station was overlain with inflammable bitumen. Only the key managerial personnel, such as the Station Director and Chief Engineer, appear to have had adequate training for work in this dangerous facility.

Safety problems were exacerbated by the Soviet Union's penchant for centralized command systems. In this case, reactors were designed around a single central turbine hall so that they could be installed and brought on line in quick succession. Yet the close juxtaposition of the reactors was to constitute a grave danger after the accident. One of the very first tasks of the fire crews was to prevent the graphite fire spreading from the first two reactor units to the third (only achieved at high cost in human lives). The lives of more personnel were in jeopardy than would have been the case had reactors been sited in individual buildings with separate protective containments.

For over a decade the Ukrainian government had been run by Party Chief Volodymyr Shcherbytsky and Premier Oleksandr Lyashko. Shcherbytsky took over as party leader in 1972, and had shown himself to be a ruthless apparatchik, completely loyal to USSR President Brezhnev. The latter had Russified the Ukrainian government and public institutions systematically, and had clamped down on the dissident movement in the republic. Many observers were surprised that Shcherbytsky remained in the Politburo after Gorbachev became General Secretary, for he appeared to be an anachronism in a basically new leadership team (see, for example, Solchanyk 1986). That he did so was significant in the official Ukrainian reaction to Chernobyl: Shcherbytsky visited Chernobyl (very briefly) only three times and issued no statements of importance on the subject. With a few individual exceptions, his party members on the spot at Pripyat and Chernobyl were confused and frightened, and unable to respond to the emergency. As in the past, the Shcherbytsky regime decided to await guidance from Moscow about how to act in this unprecedented situation.

Thus, in the immediate aftermath of the disaster, the most notable feature was confusion. According to eyewitnesses, personnel at the station did not comprehend the significance of the accident when it first occurred. The Station Director did not realize that the explosion was in the reactor unit itself. No public warnings were issued. Although 26 April was a Saturday, children still attended school. A wedding and an outdoor soccer game were also held in Pripyat. Men went fishing as usual, and one of the most popular fishing spots was the cooling pond of the Chernobyl nuclear station!

After the explosion, fire crews succumbed quickly to the effects of intense radiation. Helicopter pilots who attempted to blanket the fire with sand and chemicals also died, usually weeks or months later. The weight of these dumped materials forced the reactor downward and necessitated a period of hectic tunnelling to permit the installation of supports intended to prevent it from sinking further into the water-table. Because there were no nearby hospitals that could treat radiation patients, some were taken to one hospital in Kiev, and the most severely burned were transported by plane to Moscow's Hospital No. 6 - the only one in the country adequately prepared for such an emergency. Thus, in most respects, Chernobyl was an object lesson in spontaneous and disorganized response to a major crisis.

By 28 April, a formal announcement about the accident had been made by the Soviet government in Moscow. This reported the establishment of a government commission that was charged - in the stilted euphemisms of the Soviet bureaucracy - to "liquidate the consequences of the accident."7 The first chairman was Boris Shcherbina, a deputy chairman of the USSR Council of Ministers.

The two-day delay in publicly acknowledging the accident and the 40 hours that were taken to organize the evacuation of Pripyat suggest that Moscow remained ignorant of events at Chernobyl for some time after they occurred. However, as early as 27 April, the editors of the government newspaper Izvestiya were ordered to suppress a story providing more details of the event.8 In brief, it appears that Kiev informed Moscow about the fire promptly, but that there was no immediate reaction from the Soviet authorities. The probability is that, like most observers on the spot, Soviet officials did not realize the seriousness or full implications of the event. At the same time, neither the Ukrainian nor the Belarusian governments were willing to take independent initiatives in response to the crisis.

On 2 May, two representatives of the Politburo, Nikolai Ryzhkov and Yegor Ligachev, arrived in Chernobyl. They discussed the problems of Chernobyl with Shcherbina, Shcherbytsky, Lyashko, and the Party Chief of the Kiev Oblast, Grigorii Revenko. Measures were immediately implemented for the evacuation of all areas within 30 kilometres of the stricken power station, including the town of Chernobyl. The distance of 30 kilometres was a purely arbitrary choice. As later revealed, it did not encompass a majority of the areas affected by Chernobyl. But, at the time, it seemed justified for a number of reasons. First, the Soviet authorities had to have houses and apartments available for evacuees and most of these were located more than 30 kilometres from the reactor site. Further, there are indications that Ryzhkov and Ligachev were unaware of the real levels of leaking radiation. The officially reported "average" figure in the evacuation zone was 1 rem (=0.01 Sv) per hour in the first days after the accident. It was later revealed that, 40 miles to the west, in Narodichi Raion of Zhitomir Oblast, local civil defence officials had recorded levels as high as 3 rem per hour on 27 April. The figure of 1 rem per hour was as randomly selected as the designation of a 30 kilometre evacuation zone. It gave no indication of the very high radiation levels in the immediate vicinity of the damaged reactor.

It was reported that 135,000 persons were evacuated between 27 April and 31 May, but the evacuees were not taken immediately to safety. About 45,000 people were unwittingly transported from the southern part of Gomel Oblast (Belarus) to the north of the oblast, an area that was later shown to be highly contaminated. In Ukraine also, the first evacuees were removed to nearby Polesskoe Raion, which later became affected by the radioactive plume as it moved across Europe. Thus, most evacuees had to be moved again from their new places of residence. Finally, the evacuations encompassed only a fraction of the people living in contaminated zones, though this was not apparent at the time.

In contrast to the hesitant and uneven physical response to the accident, Soviet propaganda agencies were much more decisive. By and large, there were three different types of response - public reassurance, deflection of criticism, and selective cooperation with external agencies.

The accident is "under control"

First came measures designed to reassure the Soviet public that the situation was not dangerous and was basically "under control." Reports that the accident at Chernobyl was less serious than first feared began as early as 30 April 1986 and continued into 1987. On 30 April, for example, Radio Moscow reported (without any knowledge of the actual situation) that the quality of the drinking water in rivers and reservoirs had not been affected. Radio Kiev also began inauspiciously with the statement that "only two" people had been killed, as though the loss of two lives did not indicate a serious accident. Major newspapers in Moscow, Minsk, and Kiev featured the May Day celebrations in their 1 May editions, relegating the events at Chernobyl to the inside or back pages. The radiation background level, according to Radio Kiev, had fallen a further "1.5 to 2 times" from the time of the accident on 26 April 1986 - it was not stated, however, what the initial levels had been.9 In addition to the May Day events, Kiev also featured the start of a bicycle race and the streets were filled with children in national costumes. The impression given to the outside world was one of normality.

Statements about victims were similarly circumspect, conforming to a USSR Ministry of Health decision not to release pertinent information immediately after the disaster. However, because Chernobyl quickly became an event of international significance, foreign governments and scientists soon began to offer aid. The roles of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and foreign physicians are discussed below. In these circumstances, the Soviet authorities were obliged to disclose some of the casualty figures, though they were limited to people in the public eye - in hospitals, among fire crews, and among first-aid workers who tended to the fire-fighters.

Moreover, at the accident scene itself, the desire to ensure an atmosphere of normality was taken to extremes. The first evacuees were informed that they would be moved for a period of only three days; this may have been in part to discourage them from taking belongings from their residences and to reduce the time required for evacuation. Though reactor number four had been destroyed, and reactor three was in serious danger of catching fire, reactors one and two were left in service for a full 24 hours after the accident. On 9 May, Ukrainian Health Minister Anatolii Romanenko was heard on Radio Kiev, assuring listeners that radiation levels at Chernobyl were now within both national and international norms. On the same day, however, there was a "sudden new eruption of radioactive material" from the damaged reactor, which was not officially acknowledged by Soviet authorities until June 1989. Areas up to 40 miles from the reactor were affected!10 This new release of radioactivity was not mentioned in the Soviet report to the IAEA (August 1986) - a report that outsider observers heralded as a sign of new openness among the USSR's leaders.

Similarly, on 11 May 1986, scientists who had visited the disaster site held a press conference in Moscow and announced that the situation at Chernobyl "is stabilizing." It was reported that peak levels of radiation in the 30 kilometre zone had at first been 10-15 milliroentgens per hour; by 5 May they had fallen to 2-3 milliroentgens and by 8 May to 0.15 (Sovetskaya Belorussiya, 11 May 1986).11 Hans Blix, the Director-General of the IAEA, was inducted into the campaign of reassurance. At the press conference after his visit to Kiev, he noted that life near Chernobyl was proceeding normally. Schools were open and there were many foreign tourists in the streets. He said that, before long, the neighbouring fields would again be cultivated, and the "settlements around the nuclear power plant will be safe for residence."12

The optimistic (and quite unrealistic) tone continued for several weeks. On 13 May, for example, the news agency Novosti cited a 10 May report from the USSR Council of Ministers, that employed data from the USSR State Committee for Hydrometeorology and Environmental Control. It stated that, 60 kilometres from the station, radiation levels were 0.33 milliroentgens per hour, only slightly above those in Kiev (0.32) and "completely safe for the health of the people."13 In the western borderlands of the USSR, the situation was reported to be "normal." In Ukraine and Belarus, levels of radiation remained "the same as before the accident" (Sovetskaya Belorussiya, 13 May 1986). Not until three years later, when independent researchers tested radiation in rural areas of Ukraine and Belarus, was it recognized that these reports were, at best, incomplete and, at worst, fallacious.

In his memoirs, Andrei Sakharov recalls that he was at first taken in by the publication of such figures: "To my shame, I at first pretended that nothing much had happened." Observing that an early May 1986 report in the Soviet press had stated that radiation levels around the reactor were 10-15 milliroentgens per hour, he believed that there would be no significant fallout. However, "I had, in fact made a serious mistake. The radiation levels published in the Soviet press were one percent or less of the true figure... " Sakharov goes on to point out that he was ignorant of whether the publication of erroneous figures was a deliberate deception (Sakharov 1992: 608).

That an eminent scientist such as Sakharov could have been reassured by the publication of such figures is testimony to the effectiveness of the Soviet campaign to assure the public that the consequences of Chernobyl were limited in scope and firmly under control. It was left to the scrutiny of Evgenii Velikhov, Vice-President of the Soviet Academy of Sciences, to produce a more realistic picture that finally convinced Sakharov something was amiss.

On 14 May, the USSR Council of Ministers entered a new realm of surrealism when it declared that "the radiation situation in Byelorussia and in Ukraine, including Kiev, is improving" (Sovetskaya Belorussiya, 14 May 1993). Though the trend was reported accurately, the statement gave no indication of what the original levels had been. People were left with the misleading implication that the accident was over and life was proceeding in conditions of safety. Regions on the edge of the 30 kilometre zone were supposedly conducting agricultural work, industrial enterprises were functioning as normal, and the "usual tourist trips" were being carried out. Of the casualties from Chernobyl, 35 people were declared to be in a "serious condition," and six had died (ibid.). The toll rose to 31 by the summer of 1986, and there it remained. None of the many officially corroborated direct victims of Chernobyl were ever added to this list: their deaths were attributed to other causes.

Focus on the West

The second strand of the Soviet propaganda strategy aimed at deflecting criticism by focusing on sensational reports in Western media and purported flaws in the Western nuclear power industry.

Some might argue that sensational accounts about Chernobyl in the Western media invited a repudiation by the USSR. But the Soviet response went much further: relatively innocuous errors and exaggerations were quickly seized upon like a lifeline. On 6 May 1986, Tass denounced people "of base motives" who were propagating rumours of thousands of deaths, instilling panic among the population.14 On the previous day, the government newspaper Izvestiya ran an article that took up an entire inside page, under the title "Accidents at Nuclear Power Plants." The main focus was on accidents in the United States, and even the most minor "incidents" were characterized as full-blown accidents. A second article targeted the United Kingdom's nuclear industry. The aim of both pieces was clearly to divert attention from Chernobyl and to demonstrate that major industrialized nations of the West regularly suffered accidents in the nuclear industry, whereas there had been only one such accident in the USSR. Appearing on Soviet television on 14 May, Mikhail Gorbachev also began his first public statement on Chernobyl by lambasting the "mountains of lies" issued in the West about the event.

The practice of deflecting criticism of flaws in one nation's industrial hazard management system by appealing to the existence of supposedly greater flaws in other nations' systems is a highly unusual one. In this case it took advantage of a long-established defence mechanism in Soviet governing circles, that is, a willingness to portray the West and other capitalist states as intrinsically malevolent. Parochialism in the leadership ranks of the USSR especially in Russia - was reminiscent of World War II. At a time of crisis, it was important for the country to be united! In this climate of opinion it was hardly surprising that reports of heroism at Chernobyl took priority over accounts of real hazards (Marples 1988: 148-155). A secretive state that had been close to totalitarian was faced with a major international crisis - a crisis, moreover, in which through silence and lack of concerted action it appeared to be the guilty party. The international community was giving the issue almost unprecedented publicity. Under such conditions, the state reacted by withdrawing into its shell, so to speak, and defending itself with denunciations of the accusers. This reaction was relatively short lived. Indeed, it soon became unnecessary because international governments and media began to give Soviet authorities the benefit of the doubt in issues about the adequacy of responses to disaster.

International cooperation

When it became clear that an accident of major proportions had indeed occurred at Chernobyl, the Soviet propaganda campaign switched tactics and underscored the country's alleged support for global nuclear disarmament and international controls on the peaceful uses of atomic energy. This explains the publicity given to Soviet cooperation with institutions such as the IAEA. Embedded in these manoeuvres was the implication that Chernobyl was a minor event hardly comparable to the destruction that would follow military use of atomic weapons.

Mikhail Gorbachev had been in office only 13 months when Chernobyl occurred. He had arrived to a warm response from Western political leaders. Much younger and more active than his predecessors, he appeared to herald a time of change in the USSR. In 1986, however, he inherited an ossified Soviet state that was Leonid Brezhnev's legacy. Gorbachev's reaction to Chernobyl was very cautious but, in addition to the defensive posture adopted by his government initially, he also indicated a willingness to cooperate with the IAEA. It should be noted that in 1985 the USSR had agreed to IAEA inspections of some of its nuclear reactors, and thus this policy was not necessarily a new departure. Similarly, aid offered from long-established "friends of the USSR" abroad was also accepted, while that of individual governments was turned down.

On 14 May, Gorbachev declared his desire for "serious cooperation" with the IAEA, with respect to four specific proposals:

1. The creation of an international regime for safe development of nuclear energy involving close cooperation among all nuclear energy-using states;

2. A highly authoritative special international conference in Vienna under the aegis of the IAEA to discuss these "complex questions";

3. An increased role and scope for IAEA;

4. Safe development of "peaceful nuclear activities," involving the United Nations and its specialized departments, such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) (Sovetskaya Belorussiya, 15 May 1986).

These proposals suggested that Gorbachev was broadening the scope of the accident to one of international concern, but at the same time he was implying that such accidents were common enough to warrant the establishment of a global regime to deal with them. Despite frequent IAEA visits to the Soviet Union after Chernobyl, the August conference did not live up to its promise as an open forum. The report on the accident was prepared exclusively by a Soviet team under the leadership of Valery Legasov of the Kurchatov Institute. It focused less on inherent reactor flaws, such as the positive void coefficient and the faulty manufacture of the control rods used on the RBMK,15 and more on operator error. In retrospect, the greatest concern about the continuing operation of former Soviet RBMKs recently has come from leaders of the world's strongest economies - the so-called G7 countries rather than the IAEA.

Gorbachev was also prepared to cooperate with known friends of the Soviet Union, such as Armand Hammer, the prominent US industrialist and director of Occidental Petroleum. When Robert Gale, a bone marrow specialist from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), expressed a desire to go to the USSR to aid Chernobyl victims, he arranged the visit through the auspices of Dr. Hammer. The latter was also actively involved, and both Hammer and Gale were granted an audience with Gorbachev on 17 May.16 There are also indications that, in the period 1986-1989, the Soviet nuclear establishment was prepared to cooperate with international scientists who were known to be sympathetic to the development of nuclear energy.17 One should thus add to the initial Soviet reactions of calming the public and denouncing Western propaganda, one of careful, guarded, but visible cooperation with international agencies or individuals who were known to be sympathetic to the regime or to nuclear energy in particular.

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