|TOP Secret|
Chernobyl Accident Was Predestined 16 Years Before it Happened

Accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant became the worst disaster related to energy production. After 1986, Soviet Union stopped building nuclear power plants: Chernobyl took a lot of effort and time to make it consequences as less harmful as possible. Later, Soviet authorities accused seven workers (including director of the power plant Victor Briukhanov, deputy chief-engineer Anatoly Dyatlov and chief-engineer Mykola Fomin) in fatal actions that led to the accident. Workers’ mistake – that was the official version of why the fourth unit exploded. Some scientists and academicians – like Valery Legasov – claimed that reasons of the accident should have been investigated better and definitely had to include the details of reactor’s construction. However, all the reports were kept secret and available only for KGB stuff and top-members of the Communist Party. Information that could be harmful for Party’s image and implementation of the Party’s plan were not revealed to the public. Only after Soviet Union collapsed, it became possible to make independent researches and to come to the conclusion that might be terrifying: Chernobyl accident was predestined 16 years before it happened.

4th power unit after the accident. Photo of Chernobyl NPP, chnpp.gov.ua.




270+ Million People Under Surveillance

Document by 6th department of KGB about the situation at the nuclear power plant

KGB (Committee for State Security) was a secret police that without exception had an eye on all the spheres, parts, components etc of life in the Soviet Union. It controlled both public and private life of many people, their speeches and thoughts. Obviously, secret agents were present at state-important events and locations. Construction of the Chernobyl power plant was observed by KGB officers as well.

Since the beginning of the construction, 9,294 people and 40 subcontractors were observed by KGB department of Chernobyl district (Document №820 9th of July, 1976). Operational practice of the KGB officers was aimed at identifying so-called “unreliable elements”: people who could undermine the activities and image of the Communist Party and Soviet government. According to the KGB, “unreliable elements” among workers and engineers could be found in people of German and Chinese nationality; convicted of especially dangerous state crimes; former OUN (Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists) members; contactors with capitalist countries and others. KGB carried out its counterintelligence work at this important economic facility through an agency apparatus: in summer 1976, there were 17 officers and 58 so-called “trustees” stationed in the main areas of the Chernobyl NPP.

Construction of the Chernobyl NPP, January 1975. (From Ukrinform funds)

KGB “Trustees” from the Chernobyl power plant personnel were working on identifying facts of negligence and theft of property by responsible employees, violation of fire and radiation safety rules, and non-compliance with technological standards of operation of the nuclear facility. As the pace of construction of Chernobyl NPP increased, the number of alarm signals from the KGB about “systematic violations” of the technology of construction and installation works and irrational use of material and production resources increased as well.

Construction of the Chornobyl NPP, 1979. (From Ukrinform funds)

These people controlled all the parts of the construction. Their presence had to be invisible, but ubiquitous. They listened to the workers’ talks both in Pripyat and at the power plant. They also observed the work of top officials, material suppliers and work performers. However, the KGB officers were not allowed to interfere with the work. Their functions consisted of observing, investigating, gathering data and transferring it to those people who had the power to influence decision making process. After researching their reports, there is no doubt about quality of their work. KGB informed the Party about the smallest details of the construction, especially when it was coming to violation of the rules and non-compliance with the standards. Unfortunately, no necessary attention was paid to this information, which proves that tasks of the Party had to be accomplished at any cost.

Haste Makes Waste

Fragments of the rotor of the turbogenerator № 1, September 4, 1982. (Sectoral state archive of the security service of Ukraine. Case 992)

Since the beginning of its existence, Soviet Union had planned economy. Party congresses were taking place every five years and, apart from handing out medals, were aimed to summarize the work and to set goals for the next five years. “The Five-Year Plan in three years” – this was the slogan for the Soviet industries, culture, sport and all other spheres were the production and achievements were present.

Since the beginning of its existence, Soviet Union had planned economy. Party congresses were taking place every five years and, apart from handing out medals, were aimed to summarize the work and to set goals for the next five years. “The Five-Year Plan in three years” – this was the slogan for the Soviet industries, culture, sport and all other spheres were the production and achievements were present.

When it came to the construction of the Chernobyl NPP the plan had to be accomplished in four years. According to the instructions of the Soviet government, the start of the first unit was planned for 1974. However, because the deadlines of equipment supply, installation plan, and the construction itself were not met, the commissioning of the first unit was postponed to 1975. Later, Chernobyl Construction department shifted the start to 1976. Finally, unit 1 was put into service in the end of September, 1977.

On one hand, postponing of the commission of the first unit could have given more time to construct the building according to the plan. On the other, when it came to practice, there was a lot of mess and rush, non-compliance with the plan and rules, and lack of control.

Damaged fragments of the rotor of the turbogenerator № 1, September 4, 1982 (Sectoral state archive of the security service of Ukraine. Case 992)



Just Rub it

Management of the construction was regularly informed about making changes in the design drawings by rubbing them without the consent of the design organization. (Document №864, 12 of April, 1973)

GTA – Grand Theft Atoms

State security officers were concerned about the lack of work related to the security on the construction site: there was no fence built on the outer perimeter of the facility. This led to constant theft of construction materials.

Steelless

Apart from this, specialists involved in the construction of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant often complained about production of the reinforcement department. According to the reports, arm frames made of low-grade steel and poor quality electric welding were often installed in blocks prepared for concreting. (Sectoral state archive of the Security Service of Ukraine, case №992, page 32.)

Just a Waste

Another defect was detected at the site of installation of liquid waste storage tanks, which could have had negative impact on the environment.



Still Go On

Construction of the Chernobyl NPP, January 1975. (From Ukrinform funds)

In February 1976, the KGB received information about unusable pipes for circular water supply. Manufactured at the Kurahiv plant, pipes were delivered to the construction site of the Chernobyl NPP. There was a decision to transfer the pipes not to the plant, but to the assembly organization. However, no investigation and no improvement were made: defective products of the Kurahiv plant were regularly supplied to the construction site of the nuclear power plant in the following years. (Document № 820, 9th of July, 1976)

Later, in 1978, “Report on Violation during the Construction of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant” mentioned problems with waterproofing the foundations of production facilities, hidden defects in the frame of the machinery hall, the emergency access roads to the nuclear power plant, lack of fire alarm at central warehouses, and fires at in the buildings of the second unit. In this secret note, special attention was paid to the safety rules at work. It was reported that during three quarters of 1978, there were 170 people injured when performing their duties. (Document № 15, 17th of January, 1979 )

In 1979, Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party Volodymyr Shcherbytsky received various reports from KGB in Chernobyl. The documents included investigation on deviations from the project during the construction of the machinery hall of the second unit of the Chernobyl NPP and the intentions of the head of the Construction Department V. Gora to hide the mistakes of the builders and installers. Having read this, Shcherbytsky sent a note to the Minister of Energy and Electrification of the USSR Petro Neporozhny with a recommendation to set up a departmental commission. Its responsibility had to consist in verifying the compliance with the safety rules at all the nuclear facilities of the Ukrainian SSR. Based on the reports received from the KGB in Chernobyl, the State Security Committee regularly produced reports where the lack of building material and structures and no proper skills among majority of the workers were described. (Document №15, 17th of January, 1979)

Various reports made by KGB agents claimed that low safety culture, inappropriate construction material and non-compliance with design requirements were the biggest threatens to the successful operation of the Chernobyl NPP. However, the reports were kept secret and no attention was paid to these warnings; it proves once again that implementation of the plan and accomplishing Party tasks were in the first place.

The Beginning of the End

Central reactor hall. Photo by Chornobyl Particleboard, chnpp.gov.ua.

Various deviations from design drawings, quality of material and work itself created a lot of risks in functioning of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soon after the beginning of the construction of ChNPP, signs of negligence became visible. As long as the power plant had to start producing energy as soon as possible, those mistakes were ignored. Real danger appeared when the reactors were put into operation.

One of the first events that could have been an emergency warning happened in 1979. On 18th of February, at 11.40 p.m., the first unit of the Chernobyl NPP was accidentally shut down due to the automatic protection of the AZ-5 (system for emergency shutdown of a nuclear reactor when the fission reaction is terminated immediately). Administration of the plant set up a commission to investigate the reasons. It was found that stopping of the unit was caused by the shutdown of the main circulating pumps that supply water to cool the nuclear reactor. All the blame was put on the staff of the Leningrad Design institute, whose project drawings included technically imperfect drainage device.

In total, from the beginning of the functioning of the Chernobyl nuclear plant in 1977 till December 1981 (when unit 3 was put in service), there were 29 emergency stops; 8 of them occurred because of the service personnel, the rest – due to various technical reasons.

Another emergency situation which could have had severe consequences for the health of the personnel happened on 19-20th of April, 1981. The leakage of active water from the pipeline of the first block was not stopped by the head of shift in time. As a result, radioactive contamination of the 180-square-meter area occurred. The KGB officers reported about this situation to the “higher” bosses, but no improvement of the system of pipes was made. (Sectoral state archive of the security service of Ukraine, case 1087, pages 174-175. The Chernobyl tragedy. Documents and materials: Naukova dumka, 1996. p. 39–43.)

On 9th of September, 1982 there was one more pretty serious accident at the Chernobyl NPP. After overhaul, unit 1 was being prepared to be back in service. During the test start-up, there was a rupture of the technical channel which led to release of radioactive substances into the environment. Department commission analyzed the situation and figured out that activity of beta-emitting radionuclide at the industrial site of ChNPP exceeded natural levels tens of times. In the village of Chistogalivka, which is 5 kilometers away from the facility, levels were hundreds of times higher. Despite the radioactive contamination and the dangers for the staff and the population nearby, information about this emergency situation was classified as “secret” and was not revealed to the public.   (Document №27, 5th of January, 1983)

Since August, 1982 the observation and control on Department of Construction of the Chernobyl NPP with its 42 subcontracted organizations (responsible for transportation, construction, and installation) was transferred to the newly created structure: the Pripyat city department of the KGB of the Soviet Union. During this period of 1982, there were 16 failures at the nuclear facility being investigated by the officers. Also, they were in charge of carrying out preventive activities to calm down the “unhealthy moods” in the city related to low-quality water supply system in the Pripyat city. (Document № 48, 20 June, 1984)

Counterintelligence officers were in charge of investigating the reasons of those emergency stops. In many of their reports, they expressed concern that the electrical equipment and measuring tool used at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant did not meet the quality requirements and needed to be finalized by development institutes and manufacturers. Malfunction of power supply circuits of various reactor control systems and relay control units, failure of the control and protection system of the RBMK-1000 reactor, failure of the Storm system (used for measuring and controlling water consumption in the reactor technical channels), turbine design defects and others led to dysfunctions in the work of the of ChNPP. (Document № 48, 20th of June, 1984)

Moreover, the report also mentioned that “the station does not have a strict schedule for preventive repairs of measuring instruments, which, if there any accident happens, does not allow identifying the responsible worker who was the last to carry out repairs”. In such cases, collective responsibility was put in the first place. However, when it was coming to practice “collective responsibility” meant “no responsibility” at all.

In March, 1981, KGB officers who worked in Chernobyl made a report to the Republican KGB Department. There, they gave negative feedback on the fact that a fish was bred in the cooling pond of ChNPP. As long as the temperature of the water usually did not go lower than 20 degrees, local management decided to use this for building a fish farm there. The product was sold to the population through the Ivankiv fish factory. For the people, it was a proof that the nuclear facility and the cooling pond were totally safe. Actually, that was the propagated thing. However, the KGB officers, who knew about all the emergency situations and radiation emission, expressed their concern. It was possible to hide the accidents; but if there had been any illnesses caused by consumption of the contaminated fish recorded, there would have been a huge issue for the Party and its image. Selling was stopped only after the accident in 1986, and the farm was transformed into laboratory. (Document № 16, 12 of March, 1981)

Temperature Rises

KGB paid serious attention to the strategic facility. Numerous documents from the KGB in Chernobyl marked as “Special Report” to the Kyiv Regional Committee of the Communist Party, the Chernobyl NPP management, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and the People’s Control Committee described low quality construction and lack of proper control and supervision. Apart from this, there were also improper selection, training and placement of the personnel mentioned. To prove these statements, KGB officers included detailed information on high percentage of injuries among builders, especially, right before the commissioning of the first unit of the Chernobyl NPP.

At the same time, various emergency situations did not motivate the management of the power plant to make any kind of improvements. In July 1978, part of the newly constructed building collapsed which could have resulted in injuries and death of the workers. The head of the Chernobyl regional department of KGB informed the First Secretary of the Chernobyl district Committee of the Party and stressed that no necessary attention neither consideration was given to this issue. Even more, no responsible people were found, thus, nobody suffered any punishment for these mistakes. 

Various reports on irrational designs and materials warned about probable accident. In particular, KGB informed that some of the material could not be used at the power plant because they could serve effectively under high temperatures and constant radiation. Moreover, it was noted that technical documentation did not always meet the requirements in terms of fire safety.

Miscalculations, mistakes, low quality material and lack of professionalism of the workers and discipline, no necessary protection of the construction site etc were always mentioned in the reports, notes, telegrams, and analytical documents that KGB was making for the “government officers” both in Kyiv and Moscow. A few months before the 26th of April 1986, the research on the RBMK-1000 was introduced to the responsible Party members and the Chernobyl NPP top managers. It concluded that the risks of emergency situations arise when changing the operating modes of this type of the reactor. However, this information was put aside when it came to the experiment at the fourth unit.

Was it Doomed?

According to confirmed data, there was a plan to build 12 reactors at the Chernobyl NPP. It was supposed to be the most powerful energy producing facility in the Soviet Union. The “youngest” unit (it was built in 1983) destroyed all these plans. Taking into consideration all the mistakes and general negligence, it could have been any other reactor. However, the test at the fourth unit proved that accomplishing the tasks of the Party without providing necessary safety can have severe consequences for both for the Party, the whole state and the human beings.

All information based on: “CHERNOBYL KGB FILE FROM CONSTRUCTION TO ACCIDENT. Collection of documents on the Chernobyl disaster”. Kyiv 2020. Link

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