[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Chernobyl Earthquake

Winning Documentary Links Chernobyl to Earthquake

By Peter Starck 
COPENHAGEN, June 23 (Reuters) - A television documentary highlighting a
possible link between a small earthquake and the Chernobyl nuclear disaster 12
years ago won first prize in a competition arranged by the European
Environment Agency. 

Director Bente Milton received a prize of 25,000 Danish crowns ($3,660) on
Monday for ``The Secret Factor'' -- a 58-minute film establishing that a
tremor with its epicentre less than 12 km (seven miles) from Chernobyl took
place just before the world's worst civilian nuclear accident. 

``The earthquake has never been mentioned in any of the official
explanations,'' Milton told Reuters by telephone. 

``We cannot prove it but it is very likely that there could be a connection,''
she said, emphasizing she was quoting experts interviewed for the documentary.

Denmark's TV2 television channel, the distributor of the documentary made by
the Milton Media production company, said in a statement: ``To this day the
official explanation of the Chernobyl disaster has been human error and

The accident in April 1986 released a poisonous radioactive cloud over Europe
and contaminated large areas of Ukraine, Belarus and Russia. Ukraine's Health
Ministry has said more than 3,500 people died as a result of the disaster,
although other estimates put the toll higher. 

The number four reactor at Chernobyl was built on top of a geological
formation known as a tectonic break -- an area where the crust of the earth is
not solid, Milton said. 

Russian, Lithuanian and Western scientists agreed on the authenticity of
suppressed reports from three nearby seismic stations operated by the Soviet
military, she said. 

Those reports showed that an earthquake measuring between 3.0 and 4.0 on the
Richter scale occurred 22 seconds before the Chernobyl reactor exploded. 

An official at the Copenhagen-based European Environment Agency said the
documentation for the film was checked by independent experts in Denmark and
Britain and found to be accurate. 

Milton said a Russian scientist thought the earthquake could have caused the
reactor's cooling pipes to break. 

``The steam could cause a reaction similar to that of a rocket engine,'' she
said, explaining the expert's theory in non-scientific terms. ``The nuclear
core was lifted out of the shell and the explosion happened in the air.'' 

The documentary included archive footage shot by Russian scientists inside the
ruined reactor. 

``It is empty inside. It is like a big barn,'' Milton said. Experts concerned
about nuclear power plant safety were inviting scientists in related fields to
test the documentary's theory. Milton said that if it were correct, ``we have
a major problem.'' 

Eight of 10 nuclear plants with reactors of the same type as Chernobyl's were
built in potentially dangerous geologically unstable areas, usually near lakes
or rivers due to the need for cooling water, she said. 

Milton said the Ignalina nuclear power plant in Lithuania, where research for
the documentary began two years ago and where she picked up the trail leading
to Chernobyl, was a prime example. 

The builders of Ignalina ignored a 1989 report about the geological
instability of the area, she said. 

A Chernobyl-type accident at the Lithuanian plant -- less than 1,000 km (620
miles) from Berlin, Warsaw and Copenhagen, among other big cities -- could put
many people in danger, she added. 

On average, Lithuanian geologists reported some seismic activity every second

``If it takes only a small earthquake, the potential risk is quite big,''
Milton said.