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Top Secret Chernobyl : The Nuclear Disaster through the Eyes of the Soviet Politburo, KGB, and U.S. Intelligence. Volume 1
Memorial to Those who Saved the World, Chernobyl, Ukraine (Wikipedia)
Published: Aug 15, 2019
Briefing Book #681
Edited by Svetlana Savranskaya, Sarah Dunn, Brooke Lennox with Alla Yaroshinskaya
For more information, contact: 202-994-7000 or nsarchiv@gwu.edu <mailto:nsarchiv@gwu.edu>
Declassified documents detail highest-level reactions, cover-ups, critiques
Sources include Politburo notes, diaries, protocols never before translated into English
Part One of a Two-Volume Publication
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Reactor No. 4 of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant on April 27, 1986. Copyright: IAEA Imagebank. Photo Credit: Ukrainian Society for Friendship and Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries (USFCRFC)
Washington, D.C., August 15, 2019 – Documents from the highest levels of the Soviet Union, including notes, protocols and diaries of Politburo sessions in the immediate aftermath of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986, detail a sequence of cover-up, revelation, shock, mobilization, individual bravery, and bureaucratic turf battles in the Soviet reaction, according to the “Top Secret Chernobyl” e-book published today by the National Security Archive.
Key sources include protocols of the Politburo Operational Group on Chernobyl that were published in Russian by the journalist and former Supreme Soviet deputy Alla Yaroshinskaya in 1992. The posting today begins with Yaroshinskaya’s essay (written exclusively for this publication) reviewing the Chernobyl story and her own efforts dating back to 1986 to document and expose the lies and the secrecy that surrounded the disaster.
Also included are excerpts from the diary of Politburo member Vitaly Vorotnikov, notes on Politburo sessions by Anatoly Chernyaev, and excerpts from rare “official working copies” of Politburo sessions that were published in Russian by former Rosarchiv director Rudolf Pikhoia in 2000. Today’s publication also contains declassified reactions from the U.S. State Department’s intelligence bureau, the CIA, and the National Security Council’s Jack Matlock, as well as reporting from the Ukrainian KGB.
“Top Secret Chernobyl” is the first part of a two-volume documentary publication, taking the Chernobyl story through July 1986. The second part will include Soviet military reporting on the radiation contamination, the process of “liquidation” of the consequences, and more foreign reactions to the disaster.
The documents published today complement a number of other important accounts of Chernobyl. The author Adam Higginbotham, whose book Midnight in Chernobyl (2019) illuminates the tragedy with quotations from his hundreds of interviews, also relied on a trove of Soviet-era documents collected by the Ukrainian National Chernobyl Museum in Kiev. In April 2019, Higginbotham published an extremely useful selection <www.wilsoncenter.org/blog-post/explosion-occurred-power-unit-no-4-th e-story-chernobyl-documents> of these documents on the “Sources and Methods” blog of the History and Public Policy Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. The Higginbotham documents particularly detail the reaction of the Kiev authorities, ranging from the Council of Ministers to the Ukrainian Communist Party Central Committee to the Ministry of Health to the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences.
Another richly documented account that begins with the trial of the Chernobyl plant operators in 1987 and analyzes the entire rise of the Soviet nuclear power industry is Sonja D. Schmid’s Producing Power (2015). Schmid dissects the various competing explanations for the Chernobyl disaster, including operator error, reactor design, and deficiencies in the Soviet system overall, and cites to more than 100 pages of notes on sources. A more popularized and novelistic treatment may be found in Serhii Plokhy’s account, Chernobyl: A History of a Nuclear Catastrophe (2018).
Deception on the Scale of Chernobyl
By Alla Yaroshinskaya
In my journalistic archive are stored pounds of secret Chernobyl documents from the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CC CPSU) and the Soviet government. The tens of thousands of deaths of liquidators and victims of the catastrophe and the loss of health and quality of life for the nine million people who still survive in the affected areas paid for them.
It is known that from the very beginning of everything, the nuclear accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant (NPP) was completely classified, and the communist regime repeated its deceitful mantra: “Nothing threatens peoples’ health.” (I write about this in detail in my nonfiction books.) I managed to fight my way to the most secret Kremlin documents only in 1991, when I was elected a People’s Deputy of the USSR from the city of Zhytomyr, which is 86 miles from Chernobyl. After the military coup in the USSR in August of 1991 and the ban of the Communist Party, the transfer of its archives began and the deputies finally received the secret protocols of the operative group of the Politburo of the CC CPSU on the accident at the Chernobyl NPS.
One of the December days in 1991, when the USSR was already in the process of self-destruction and the parliament living out its last months, I went over to the building of the Supreme Soviet (the parliament) and saw the deputies’ archives being loaded into cars. And suddenly it dawned on me: now the secret Chernobyl protocols will be carried off, even though we, the deputies, have not even had the time to read them yet! I decided to immediately make copies of them. However, the ‘veto’ in the only deputies’ copy center was imposed by a certain Vladimir Pronin from the secret sector of the Armed Forces of the USSR. This was a shock: the special services were watching all of the deputies’ actions! I dropped in on the head of the special units of the Secretariat of the Armed Forces of the USSR Anatoly Burko, and explained that I had the right. He calmly uttered: in order to get the authorization to copy documents, I must address the organization that classified them. Let me remind you that it was after the August coup of 1991. The President of Russia Boris Yeltsin had already banned the CPSU, and some members of its politburo were contemplating life in KGB cells.
I decided to go to the newspaper ‘Izvestia’, where I found the coveted Xerox. (In 1991 in the USSR, Xerox copying machines were still inaccessible not only to ordinary citizens, but, as one can see, to members of parliament.) On my return to my deputy’s office, I put the originals back in the safe and thought: in this country everything is so unsteady, and if the communists end up in power again tomorrow, what will become of my family? I opened the safe again, took out the first protocol from there-the original-and put the copy in its place.
When I began to read the secret documents, I saw that the deception around the catastrophe turned out to be just as vast as the catastrophe itself. And the main deadly isotope leaking out the Chernobyl reactor was not Cesium-137, but ‘Deception-86.’ As it follows from the documents, the first meeting of the Politburo group was held on April 29, 1986. A flood of reports on the hospitalization of the public comes, starting on May 4th.
“Secret. Protocol No. 7. May 6, 1986. Present: members of the Politburo of the CC CPSU Comrades N.I. Ryzhkov, E.K. Ligachev, V.I. Vorotnikov, V.L. Chebrikov, the Secretary of the CC CPSU A.N. Yakovlev. (.) as of 09:00 hours on May 6th, the total number of the hospitalized amounted to 3,454 people.the number stricken with radiation sickness amounted to 367 people.” According to the protocols, the number of the sick is growing every day. The count is already in the thousands.
“Secret. Protocol No. 12. May 12, 1986. (.) There are 10,198 people under in-patient examination and treatment, of which 345 people have symptoms of radiation sickness.”
After more than ten thousand of the radiation-exposed turned up in hospital beds their general discharge suddenly began. It seems the worse the radiation spread, the healthier the Soviet people grew.
And here is the solution of sudden, miraculous ‘healing.’
“Secret. Protocol No. 9. May 8, 1986. (.) The Ministry of Health of the USSR approved new standards of permissible levels of exposure of the population to radioactive irradiation, surpassing the former by 10 times. In special cases, it is possible to increase these standards to levels exceeding the previous by 50 times. [Author’s Note- !]”
The Kremlin went to great lengths to hide the scale of the radiation debacle. Not two months after the evacuation of people from the ‘black’ zone-as the 30-kilometer zone was termed in the secret letters of the Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine Vladimir Shcherbitsky-the authorities hastily began the reverse process: re-evacuation! “Secret. Protocol No. 29. (.) June 23, 1986. The conclusion about the possibility of the return of children and pregnant women to the areas where the radiation levels fall within the limits of 2 to 5 mR/hr. 1. Allow the re-evacuation (return) of children and pregnant women to all residential areas where the combined calculated dose will not exceed 10 rem for the first year (237 residential areas in total)”, and there “where the calculated doses of radiation exposure (without the restriction of the consumption of contaminated foods) surpasses 10 rem,-from October 1, 1986.(174 residential areas). Israel, Burenkov, Aleksandrov.” This is despite the fact that a month earlier the head of the State Committee for Hydrometeorology Yuri Israel reported: “Areas with radiation levels higher than 5 mR/hr (.) are recognized as dangerous for people to live in. In areas with radiation levels of less than 5 mR/hr it is critical to introduce strict control for radioactive food, especially milk.”
It is interesting to compare with the secret “Report of the head of the Chemical Corps of the Ministry Defense of the USSR V. Pikalov at a meeting of the CC CPSU on June 15, 1987.”: “.in the ‘red’ forest, because of the turn-down and the conservation of the forest, the radiation levels are lowered from 5 Roentgen/hr to 7.5 mR/hr, which surpasses admissible values by 15 times.” ‘Red’ was the name of the forest close to the NPP, which had been killed by a nuclear blast. It turns out that pregnant women and children were re-evacuated nearly to the ‘red’ forest! Isn’t this criminal? (One of the authors of the idea of returning children and pregnant women to the danger zone-Yuri Israel-was subsequently awarded the Order of Lenin “for Chernobyl.”)
Secret recipes from the Politburo on the use of radioactive meat and milk are undoubtedly one of the strongest parts of the Kremlin-Chernobyl bestseller. “Secret. Protocol No. 32. August 22, 1986. (.) Paragraph 10: “Consider it expedient to store meat with an elevated level of radioactive contaminant in the government reserve, in storage, as well as subject for purchase in the current year.”
“Top Secret. Resolution of the Politburo of the CC CPSU on May 8, 1986. Comrade V.S. Murakhovsky’s report. (.) Secretary of the CC CPSU M.S. Gorbachev. (.) In the course of slaughtering large cattle and pigs, it is established that washing the animals with water and also the removal of their lymph nodes results in obtaining meat suitable for consumption.” It is interesting, what did they do with the ‘removed lymph nodes’? Indeed, they also could have been put on Soviet schoolchildren’s doughnuts!
“Secret. Attachment to paragraph 10 of Protocol No. 32. (.) At present, there are around 10 thousand tons of meat with contamination levels of radioactive materials from 1.1*10-7 Ci/kg to 1.0*10-g Ci/kg in storage in fridges of the meat industry in a number of regions, in August to December of this year it is expected that another 30 thousand tons of such meat will enter into production.” And then comes the recommendation: “.disperse the meat contaminated with radioactive material around the country as much as possible, and use it for the production of sausage products, canned goods, and manufactured meat products at a ratio of one to 10 with normal meat.”
The following is how the Deputy Prosecutor-General of the USSR V.I. Andreyev answered my official inquiry 5 years after the accident: “.in the period of 1986 to 1989, in the specified zones 47,500 tons of meat and 2 million tons of milk over the limit of the level of contamination were produced..These circumstances put around 75 million people in dangerous living conditions (Author’s Note- !). and created the conditions for increased mortality, the increase in the number of malignant tumors, the increase of the number of deformities, hereditary and somatic medical problems, and a change in the population’s capacity for work.
. Only 1.5 million people (as well as 160,000 children under the age of 7 ) at the time of the accident were living in the zone of the largest contamination with iodine-131, those with irradiation exposure of the thyroid gland at 30 rem composed 87% of adults and 48% of children, at 11% and 35%, respectively, at 30 to 100 rem, and 2% of adults and 17% of children were at upwards of 100 rem.” An exposure to radiation of 100 rem guarantees cancer.
The Union collapsed. Even in Bulgaria criminal proceedings took place for those who had lied to the people about the radiation. And we did not have those who were guilty in the Chernobyl outrages under the party bosses, who called “to intensify propaganda efforts aimed at the exposure of false fabrications of the bourgeois information and intelligence agencies about the events at the Chernobyl NPP,” nor under democracies-sovereign public prosecutors still keep a deathlike silence.
Alla Yaroshinskaya
Writer, author of nonfiction books about Chernobyl Former Peoples’ Deputy of the USSR Former Adviser to the President of the Russian Federation Boris Yeltsin
Translated by Sarah Dunn for the National Security Archive.
Read the documents <nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6279034-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 1-Excerpt-from>

<nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6279034-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 1-Excerpt-from>
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6279034-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 1-Excerpt-from> Document 1
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6279034-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 1-Excerpt-from> Excerpt from Vitaly Vorotnikov Diary

Source: Vorotnikov, V.I. A eto bylo tak: Iz dnevnika chlena PB TsK KPSS (Moscow, Soyuz Veteranov Knigoizdaniya: SIMAR, 1995)
Member of the Politburo Vitaly Vorotnikov writes in his diary about the first information Politburo members received regarding the accident at the Chernobyl NPS (Nuclear Power Station). According to Vladimir Dolgikh, the Central Committee Secretary in charge of heavy industry and energy production who received information from Station Director Viktor Bryukhanov, the fire was extinguished and the reactor was not damaged. In the morning the leadership formed a State Commission headed by Boris Shcherbina, which departed for Chernobyl later in the day.
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6279035-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 2-USSR-Ministry-of>
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6279035-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 2-USSR-Ministry-of>
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6279035-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 2-USSR-Ministry-of> Document 2
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6279035-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 2-USSR-Ministry-of> USSR Ministry of Energy, “Regarding the Accident at Reactor No. 4 of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant,” Urgent Report to the CC CPSU Politburo

Source: Russian State Archive of Contemporary History, Fond 89
The first official report of the accident to the Politburo misrepresents the situation completely. According to the report from the Ministry of Energy, the fire was extinguished by 3:30 a.m. and the reactor core was being cooled down. The report states that according to Ministry of Health representatives, “adoption of special measures, including evacuating the population from the city, is unnecessary.”
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6279036-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 3-Excerpt-from>
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6279036-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 3-Excerpt-from>
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6279036-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 3-Excerpt-from> Document 3
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6279036-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 3-Excerpt-from> Excerpt from Vitaly Vorotnikov Diary

Source: Vorotnikov, V.I. A eto bylo tak: Iz dnevnika chlena PB TsK KPSS (Moscow, Soyuz Veteranov Knigoizdaniya: SIMAR, 1995)
A brief note from Vitaly Vorotnikov’s diary shows a reassessment of the situation by Moscow. According to new information, the accident was much more severe that thought earlier. The decision is made to evacuate the town of Pripyat.
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6279037-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 4-Extraordinary>
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6279037-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 4-Extraordinary>
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6279037-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 4-Extraordinary> Document 4
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6279037-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 4-Extraordinary> Extraordinary Session of the CC CPSU Politburo

Source: Archive of the President of the Russian Federation (APRF), Record of Session of the CC CPSU Politburo, 28 April 1986, working copy, published in Rudolph Pikhoia, Sovetskii Soyuz: Istoriya Vlasti, 1945-1991 (Novosibirsk: Sibirskii Khronograph, 2000), pp. 429-432.
Excerpts from this amazing document are available to us thanks to the extraordinary work by the first Director of the Russian state archival agency (Rosarchiv), Rudolph Pikhoia, who published them in his book on the history of the Soviet government. Almost all of the “working copies” of Politburo sessions are still secret in the Russian Presidential Archive. These excerpts provide a practically verbatim account of the first discussion of the Chernobyl accident by the full Politburo.
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<nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6279038-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 5-CC-CPSU>
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6279038-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 5-CC-CPSU> Document 5
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6279038-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 5-CC-CPSU> CC CPSU Politburo Session (from Vitaly Vorotnikov Diary)

Source: Vorotnikov, V.I. A eto bylo tak: Iz dnevnika chlena PB TsK KPSS (Moscow, Soyuz Veteranov Knigoizdaniya: SIMAR, 1995)
These brief notes from a Politburo session contain only snippets of what was said, but they convey the sense of utter shock among the Soviet leadership. Dolgikh reports: “The situation at the NPS is catastrophic. The reactor is practically destroyed. There is an active expulsion of graphite .” The Politburo approves urgent measures to deal with the fire and contamination and forms the Politburo Operational Group on Chernobyl.
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6279039-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 6-CC-CPSU>
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6279039-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 6-CC-CPSU>
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6279039-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 6-CC-CPSU> Document 6
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6279039-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 6-CC-CPSU> CC CPSU Politburo Operational Group Session Protocol #1

Source: Alla Yaroshinskaya “Chernobyl: Sovershenno Sekretno (Moscow: Drugie Berega, 1992)
This is the first of many protocols created by the Politburo Operational Group. These protocols, and all the granular details of how the Soviet leadership dealt with the accident day-by-day, are available to scholars and citizens due to the courage and decisiveness of a brave Russian journalist and subsequently member of the first democratically elected Supreme Soviet, Alla Yaroshinskaya, who published these protocols after the August 1991 coup in Moscow. The Politburo Operational Group on Chernobyl was staffed by some of the most powerful and experienced leaders in the USSR. The first protocol reviews necessary measures to combat the damage done by the explosion in energy block 4. Among those measures are assignments to accurately measure radiation, evacuate citizens from Pripyat, and deploy chemical troops and other emergency management services.
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6279040-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 7-CC-CPSU>
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6279040-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 7-CC-CPSU>
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6279040-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 7-CC-CPSU> Document 7
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6279040-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 7-CC-CPSU> CC CPSU Politburo Operational Group Session Protocol #2

Source: Alla Yaroshinskaya “Chernobyl: Sovershenno Sekretno (Moscow: Drugie Berega, 1992)
This protocol of the second session of the Politburo Operational Group Chernobyl focuses on tasking representatives of government agencies with various emergency management duties. The tasks delineated in this protocol include management of radiation levels in the European territories of the USSR, cleanup by the Ministry of Defense, and monitoring of international students studying in Ukraine at the time of the accident. Chief of General Staff Marshal Sergey Akhromeyev reports on the Soviet military’s efforts to contain the fire and clean the most radioactive parts of the accident site. He states that the remote control equipment (which failed practically immediately because of high levels of radioactivity and had to be replaced with “biorobots”-Soviet soldiers) has arrived and tells the Group that the brigade of chemical troops will be formed and deployed by May 4.
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6279041-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 8-Ukrainian-KGB>
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6279041-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 8-Ukrainian-KGB>
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6279041-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 8-Ukrainian-KGB> Document 8
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6279041-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 8-Ukrainian-KGB> Ukrainian KGB Intelligence Report on students studying abroad during the Chernobyl accident.

Source: Bashan, Oleg, Burchak, Vladimir, and Gennady Boryak. Chernobilsky Dossier KGB. (Academic Council Institute of History of Ukraine, 2019).
This Ukrainian KGB intelligence report reviews discussions in Kiev among international students about the Chernobyl explosion. It uses information collected undercover to monitor the level of panic among students. The report quotes students mainly from the Middle East who discuss various rumors about the cause of the accident-that it was political revenge, punishment for Communists, or karma. In conclusion, Major Komarevich reports that his informers were instructed to identify and locate those who were spreading these panicked rumors.
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6279042-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 9-INR-Information>
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6279042-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 9-INR-Information>
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6279042-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 9-INR-Information> Document 9
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6279042-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 9-INR-Information> INR Information Memorandum from Morton Abramowitz to the Secretary of State: Estimate of Fatalities at Chernobyl Reactor Accident. Secret.

Source: Obtained through FOIA
This memo reviews early Soviet information and information received through U.S. intelligence and speculates about the number of fatalities on the day of the explosion. The authors conclude that “the entire intelligence community believes that the fatality figure of two is preposterous.” Intelligence analysis estimates the number of people in the immediate vicinity of the reactor at the time of the accident to be around 100. It is emphasized that this is purely speculation as inside details are unknown. In fact, the number of people on the night shift was minimal and actual fatalities did total two on the first day of the accident. The memo notes images of fire trucks and other personnel in the area, but those were dispatched to the reactor after the accident. No immediate evacuation followed.
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6279043-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 10-Draft>
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6279043-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 10-Draft>
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6279043-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 10-Draft> Document 10
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6279043-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 10-Draft> Draft Collective European Statement on Chernobyl Implications

Source: Obtained through FOIA from the Central Intelligence Agency
This statement comes from the leaders of seven industrialized European countries and expresses sympathy and offers aid to the USSR and the town of Pripyat. It goes on to discuss the increased global use of nuclear energy and requests information from the USSR on the cause of the explosion so that the other nuclear countries can avoid such an accident. The authors further encourage an expansion of International Atomic Energy Agency guidelines on sharing information.
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6279555-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 11-National>
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6279555-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 11-National>
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6279555-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 11-National> Document 11
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6279555-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 11-National> National Security Council Jack Matlock Memo on Strategy for US-Soviet Relations

Source: Ronald Reagan Presidential Library
In a memo from NSC staffer Jack Matlock to National Security Advisor John Poindexter, Matlock outlines what he calls the Soviet “public propaganda campaign on arms control,” and Gorbachev’s seeming preference for public proposals over private negotiations with Reagan (reference to his January plan for elimination of nuclear weapons), and the Soviet handling of Chernobyl. Matlock describes the Soviet response to the Chernobyl disaster as a “PR fiasco,” and predicts that it will make the Soviets “testy.” He cautions that the issue of Chernobyl and the Soviet failures should not be excessively exploited as it might backfire with the European publics and could also drive Gorbachev into a corner in terms of further negotiations. At the same time, Matlock believes that “there are ways we can capitalize on this indirectly.” He predicts correctly that one could expect “an upsurge in generalized anti-nuclear sentiments, unless we act rapidly to lead public opinion.” Matlock also outlines a “notional” proposal for the elimination of nuclear weapons clearly responding to Gorbachev’s proposal of January 1986.
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6279556-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 12-Letter-from>
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6279556-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 12-Letter-from>
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6279556-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 12-Letter-from> Document 12
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6279556-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 12-Letter-from> Letter from Science Editor Vladimir Gubarev to the CC CPSU About His Trip to Chernobyl

Source: Source: Russian State Archive of Contemporary History, Fond 89, opis 53, delo 6.
IIn this secret letter to the Central Committee, Gubarev shares his observations and recommendations. His main criticism is about the lack of information, the level of secrecy, and the degree of incompetency that led to unnecessary human losses, especially among the fire-fighters. He notes that “the situation with radiation in the city [of Pripyat] was clear within an hour.” And yet, “no planned emergency evacuation measures existed: people did not know what to do.” He criticizes military officers who wanted to show off their bravery and appeared near the reactor wearing regular uniforms. Gubarev compares standards and regulations in the Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Energy and finds the latter ones much weaker. He notes the complete paralysis of local authorities who were unable to do anything without orders from Moscow. Gubarev recommends that the central leadership should move quickly to award several liquidators who “don’t have long to live,” in particular Major L. Telyatnikov, Lieutenants V. Pravik, and V. Kibenkov, with the rank of Hero of the Soviet Union and take priority care of other people working on eliminating the consequences of the explosion.
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6279557-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 13-Minutes-of-CC>
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6279557-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 13-Minutes-of-CC>
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6279557-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 13-Minutes-of-CC> Document 13
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6279557-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 13-Minutes-of-CC> Minutes of CC CPSU Politburo Session (Anatoly S. Chernyaev notes)

Source: Archive of the Gorbachev Foundation, Fond 2, opis 6
In these notes from a Politburo session, Chernyaev mainly records Gorbachev’s interventions. The General Secretary calls for individual responsibility of every agency in eliminating the consequences of the accident and emphasizes “the social sphere,” meaning taking care of the people who are working on decontamination and those who were evacuated from the area. He also insists on informing the West and the socialist countries, especially because they are using the same reactors supplied by the USSR. Gorbachev is also thinking about the connection between Chernobyl and the threat that nuclear weapons represent: “One or two accidents like this and we would get it worse than from a total nuclear war.”
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6279558-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 14-Session-of-the>
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6279558-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 14-Session-of-the>
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6279558-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 14-Session-of-the> Document 14
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6279558-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 14-Session-of-the> Session of the CC CPSU Politburo

Source: Source: Archive of the President of the Russian Federation (APRF), Record of Session of the CC CPSU Politburo, 3 July 1986, working copy, published in Rudolph Pikhoia, Sovetskii Soyuz: Istoriya Vlasti, 1945-1991 (Novosibirsk: Sibirskii Khronograph, 2000), pp. 434-437
These excerpts from the official working copy of Politburo sessions were published by Rudolph Pikhoia. They present a fascinating account of a rare “fight” at the Politburo, where representatives of various agencies were trying to shift the blame onto one another and protect their turf. Gorbachev blasts the nuclear industry leadership and academic scientists for making the wrong decisions, especially regarding placing nuclear power stations close to cities as if they had not been considered and approved by the party leadership and the Politburo itself.
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6279559-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 15-Minutes-of-CC>
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<nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6279559-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 15-Minutes-of-CC> Document 15
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6279559-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 15-Minutes-of-CC> Minutes of CC CPSU Politburo Session (Anatoly S. Chernyaev notes)

Source: Archive of the Gorbachev Foundation, Fond 2, opis 6
Chernyaev’s notes from the same Politburo session as Document 14 are less detailed than those made by official stenographers, but they capture the heated emotional atmosphere of the meeting and they cover the entire Chernobyl discussion. Chernyaev’s notes reveal the central leadership’s obsession with presenting a proper image of the Soviet system to the West, especially in how it is dealing with the Chernobyl accident. The Politburo is aware that the failures in addressing the accident will serve as judgment on the vitality of the system. At the end of the session Gorbachev gives sweeping instructions on removing several ministers and lower-level officials for failure to prevent and deal with the consequences of the accident. He also sharply criticizes scientists for their independence and lack of party oversight of the institutes.
Top Secret Chernobyl: The Nuclear Disaster through the Eyes of the Soviet Politburo, KGB, and U.S. Intelligence. Volume 2

<nsarchive.gwu.edu/sites/default/files/thumbnails/image/photo_1_0.jp g>
A helicopter, assisting with clean-up operations, approaches the Chernobyl reactor. Copyright: IAEA Imagebank. Photo Credit: Ukrainian Society for Friendship and Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries (USFCRFC)
Published: May 15, 2020
Briefing Book #704
Edited by Svetlana Savranskaya, Sarah Dunn and Brooke Lennox
For more information, contact: 202-994-7000 or nsarchiv@gwu.edu <mailto:nsarchiv@gwu.edu>

The Chernobyl <nsarchive2.gwu.edu/rus/Perestroika/Chernobyl.html> collection from the Russian programs <nsarchive2.gwu.edu/rus/Index.html> (in Russian)
Thank you note
The National Security Archive thanks Dr. Kate Brown, Professor of Science, Technology and Society at MIT, for sharing documents from her personal collection and for her insights about the Chernobyl accident masterfully presented in her new book

Manual for Survival: A Chernobyl Guide to the Future (New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 2019).
Top Secret Chernobyl : The Nuclear Disaster through the Eyes of the Soviet Politburo, KGB, and U.S. Intelligence Volume 2
by Svetlana Savranskaya
Washington, D.C., May 15, 2020 – The Soviet Politburo knew as soon as July 1986 that the design of the Chernobyl reactor was at fault in the deadly explosion there the previous April, not just the errors made by reactor staff, according to documents published today for the first time in English by the National Security Archive.
The documents include the extremely important Politburo discussion of Chernobyl on July 3, 1986, when the head of the investigative commission, Boris Shcherbina, clearly stated that it was not just the violations of rules committed by the staff that led to the explosion, but that “RBMK reactors are potentially dangerous” in their very design. Shcherbina called for halting further construction of such reactors (Document 1 <nsarchive2.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6890905-National-Security-Archive-Do c-01-CC-CPSU> ).
The Shcherbina report gives a deeply critical analysis of the situation throughout the Soviet nuclear power industry and shows that shortcuts had been made that led to serious safety issues and numerous smaller accidents. Although the subsequent Politburo discussion featured attempts to avoid responsibility and to find scapegoats, this document also shows the impact of Mikhail Gorbachev’s policy of glasnost-one hears an unusual amount of disagreements and questioning of the party leadership itself.
Other important documents in today’s posting, which is the second installment in the Archive’s series focusing on Chernobyl evidence (Volume 1 <nsarchive.gwu.edu/node/2558> ), include the initial analysis of radioactive contamination in Sweden, which was the first signal internationally of the Chernobyl accident, Soviet internal discussions of the causes of the accident, and the first signs of domestic opposition in the Soviet Union to the culture of secrecy surrounding all information about the accident.
The Soviet documents published here in translation for the first time show the monumental efforts by the military and civilian services to contain the reactor fire, evacuate citizens, and decontaminate the area. This was a public health emergency of a kind the USSR was utterly unprepared for and once its scope was fully appreciated it prompted a huge government effort to come to grips with the consequences.
The State Hydrometeorological Committee and the Ministry of Health produced reports on the effects of radiation on citizens and levels of contamination of water and agricultural resources, closely monitoring the changing situation on the ground. The Ukrainian Ministry of Health reported to the Union Ministry of Health on extensive programs of medical oversight, testing and treatment of evacuees, nutrition programs, and monitoring of children, who absorbed more of the damaging radiation than other groups.
Truly heroic work by the Soviet military-22,500 conscripts by the end of 1986-is presented in the report by Marshal Sergey Akhromeyev, chief of the Soviet General Staff and the person in charge of the military “liquidation” effort (Document 5 <nsarchive2.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6890464-National-Security-Archive-Do c-05-Akhromeyev> ). According to the continually growing documentary record, the same system that was initially unprepared for a disaster of this scale, was able to respond quickly and to concentrate all its resources on containment and cleanup of the accident.
At the same time, the shock of Chernobyl in the atmosphere of glasnost promoted by Gorbachev led to widespread grass-roots expressions of discontent and criticism of the government response. In a letter to Pravda that was forwarded to the Politburo, a group of “liquidators” describes the lack of medical care and the attitude of neglect from local party and government organs. In November 1988, Academician Andrei Sakharov addressed Gorbachev directly in a letter where he complained about the lack of glasnost and “obstruction” of a publication about Chernobyl by a nuclear engineer who was involved in mitigation of the accident (Document 9 <nsarchive2.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6890468-National-Security-Archive-Do c-09-Letter-from-A-D> ). And in 1989, an independent group of “liquidators” in Ukraine attempted to organize a Union-wide organization of “liquidators” that would monitor the cleanup work and even carry out oversight of how the resources disbursed for the Chernobyl mitigation were used by the local administration.
The documents posted here show that notwithstanding an unprecedented effort by Soviet scientists to understand the dangers made stark by the Chernobyl accident, the level of knowledge was still incomplete and often the long-term consequences were underappreciated. For example, in January 1992, a U.S. congressional delegation met with the Vice President of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Academician Evgeny Velikhov, who was one of Gorbachev’s advisers on Chernobyl. According to the cable from U.S. Embassy in Moscow on the meetings of the Codel, when asked about the progress of Chernobyl cleanup,
“Velikhov said that the Chernobyl situation is not as bad as the press says, claiming that low doses of radiation fluctuate more than envisioned and that health dangers are overstated. He cited studies in the Southern Ukraine related to the early warning radar system stating that most illness in this region is due to stress. In Chernobyl, he said, children suffered thyroid problems and other non-cancerous illnesses due to quick iodine emission, but the Soviet record shows there is no record of increased cancer cases. When asked if Chernobyl has been cleaned up, Velikhov responded negatively, saying there is still a thirty-kilometer non-populated zone, which is contaminated by cesium and strontium and which will take a long time to decontaminate. Otherwise, there are local spot concentrations outside the zone. Based on experience from the Urals (Kyshtym), the area will be more or less safe after thirty years, he said.” <nsarchive.gwu.edu/briefing-book/russia-programs/2020-05-15/top-secr et-chernobyl-nuclear-disaster-through-eyes-soviet-politburo-kgb-us-intellige nce-volume-2?eType=EmailBlastContent&eId=d700996e-05c4-44f8-ad76-472dd8133c6 7#_edn1> [1]
The following essays were contributed by two members of the Russia Program staff based on research in the documents in today’s posting.
* * *
The Liquidators
by Sarah Dunn Research Assistant, Russia Program, the National Security Archive
In October of 1986, a group of liquidators, a colloquial term for those officially called “participants in the elimination [or liquidation] of the consequences of the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant,” wrote a letter to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from a sanatorium in the Kharkov region of Ukraine. In this letter, the men spoke of their concerns about the impact of the winter on their health (“The worsening weather conditions increase the likelihood of the emergence of every kind of cold-related disease..And what their consequences will be is still unknown.”), their lack of weather appropriate clothing (“The clothes in which we arrived at the sanatorium in the summer are no longer suited to the season and to buy ‘normal’ warm things in our situation is practically impossible.”), and the poor medical treatment they were receiving (“.medical conditions are not being checked by specialist doctors familiar with radiation sickness, and such regular medical check-ups are not provided.”) (Document 4 <nsarchive2.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6890463-National-Security-Archive-Do c-04-CC-CPSU> ) The men spoke of inadequate nutrition, the failure to provide them with the housing and funds they had been promised, poor treatment by government organizations that were meant to be helping them, the feelings of unjustness that came from hearing on the radio of the benefits given to the evacuees of the 30-km exclusion zone, and their difficulties in performing everyday tasks, like standing in a line for bus tickets, due to their radiation sickness.
Exact statistics for the health and mortality rates of the liquidators are unknown. There were around 600,000 liquidators who worked at Chernobyl from 1986 to 1990 <nsarchive.gwu.edu/briefing-book/russia-programs/2020-05-15/top-secr et-chernobyl-nuclear-disaster-through-eyes-soviet-politburo-kgb-us-intellige nce-volume-2?eType=EmailBlastContent&eId=d700996e-05c4-44f8-ad76-472dd8133c6 7#_edn2> [2]. The highest radiation doses were received by the 240,000 liquidators who were within the 30-km exclusion zone from 1986 to 1987, with the average radiation dose in 1986 estimated to be 170 millisieverts (mSv) <nsarchive.gwu.edu/briefing-book/russia-programs/2020-05-15/top-secr et-chernobyl-nuclear-disaster-through-eyes-soviet-politburo-kgb-us-intellige nce-volume-2?eType=EmailBlastContent&eId=d700996e-05c4-44f8-ad76-472dd8133c6 7#_edn3> [3] <nsarchive.gwu.edu/briefing-book/russia-programs/2020-05-15/top-secr et-chernobyl-nuclear-disaster-through-eyes-soviet-politburo-kgb-us-intellige nce-volume-2?eType=EmailBlastContent&eId=d700996e-05c4-44f8-ad76-472dd8133c6 7#_edn4> [4]. For reference, the legal limit set by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for the radiation dose for an entire year for radiation workers is 50 mSv <nsarchive.gwu.edu/briefing-book/russia-programs/2020-05-15/top-secr et-chernobyl-nuclear-disaster-through-eyes-soviet-politburo-kgb-us-intellige nce-volume-2?eType=EmailBlastContent&eId=d700996e-05c4-44f8-ad76-472dd8133c6 7#_edn5> [5]. A 2005 United Nations study said that fewer than 50 deaths could be directly attributed to radiation related to Chernobyl at the time, and said that 4,000 deaths could be expected among liquidators and evacuees <nsarchive.gwu.edu/briefing-book/russia-programs/2020-05-15/top-secr et-chernobyl-nuclear-disaster-through-eyes-soviet-politburo-kgb-us-intellige nce-volume-2?eType=EmailBlastContent&eId=d700996e-05c4-44f8-ad76-472dd8133c6 7#_edn6> [6]. Greenpeace stated that Chernobyl had caused 200,000 deaths from 1990-2004, and spoke of other effects from the radiation, like premature aging and psychological disorders. As of 2016, the Ukrainian Health Ministry suggested that 20,000 liquidators die from “Chernobyl related illnesses” each year4.
In a resolution of the Central Committee, signed by then General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev, the liquidators’ letter was described as bearing “witness to the facts of an unacceptably heartless, bureaucratic attitude” shown to them in their attempts to organize treatment and welfare support. Twenty years later, Gorbachev wrote about Chernobyl as a “historic turning point,” as the disaster, which “more than anything else, opened the possibility of much greater freedom of expression, to the point that the system as we knew it could no longer continue.” <nsarchive.gwu.edu/briefing-book/russia-programs/2020-05-15/top-secr et-chernobyl-nuclear-disaster-through-eyes-soviet-politburo-kgb-us-intellige nce-volume-2?eType=EmailBlastContent&eId=d700996e-05c4-44f8-ad76-472dd8133c6 7#_edn7> [7]
The liquidators’ difficulties did not end with the Central Committee’s resolution. To this day many liquidators face struggles in obtaining the medical treatment and compensation they are owed by their governments. Despite their health issues, financial struggles, and psychological stress, many liquidators did not regret their work then, and do not regret it now. In their letter, the liquidators spoke of their pride at having helped avert disaster at Chernobyl, speaking of their pride at not having suffered in vain. Sergey Krasilnikov, a now 65-year-old former liquidator, spoke about his health issues and his time at Chernobyl in 2016, and said “Had I known with what indifference and scorn the state would treat me now, I may not have agreed to be a liquidator. Nevertheless, knowing what I know now, I would probably act in a similar way.” <nsarchive.gwu.edu/briefing-book/russia-programs/2020-05-15/top-secr et-chernobyl-nuclear-disaster-through-eyes-soviet-politburo-kgb-us-intellige nce-volume-2?eType=EmailBlastContent&eId=d700996e-05c4-44f8-ad76-472dd8133c6 7#_edn8> [8]
* * *
The Role of International Actors in Revealing the Environmental Impact of Chernobyl
by Brooke Lennox Summer Intern at the National Security Archive (2019)
In order to better understand the impact of the massive catastrophe that happened at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station, one needs to look at the contribution made by other countries and international organizations in collecting and making public information about the spread of contamination. International actors were critical to the discovery of the accident but also deserve a significant amount of credit for the measures taken to protect citizens in their countries and attempts to prevent further contamination.
The first country to discover the environmental effects caused by the explosion was Sweden. As shown in the two documents in this posting on Sweden’s role in developing the international understanding of what happened in the USSR on April 26, 1986, radioactive dust had already traveled 900 miles from the explosion site in around 24 hours. Experts in Stockholm were able to figure out almost entirely what had happened and then share this critical news with the world (Document 3 <nsarchive2.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6890462-National-Security-Archive-Do c-03-Chernobyl-Its> ).
As soon as scientists in Sweden determined the seriousness of the accident they took a number of steps including implementing bans on certain products and measuring food’s cesium levels. The rapid attention that was given to Sweden’s own citizens not only confirms the seriousness of the event’s effects on the surrounding environment but also shows the disparity in effort and preparedness between the Soviet Union and Western Europe after the accident.
Sweden’s serious response to the explosion was instrumental in limiting the effects of Cesium-127 in their local environment. Despite the necessity for swift action, the lack of information and the inability of local actors to act independently without orders from Moscow significantly delayed preventative measures in the USSR.
In contrast, Sweden calmly determined the nature and scope of the problem within two days of the accident and immediately took action including informing the rest of the international community.
Various international actors actively participated in the decontamination of Chernobyl and its surrounding areas. However, even today, more than 30 years after the accident, international actors are still part of the story of Chernobyl. For example, in Belarus scientist Bandazhevsky was put in jail in 1999 for his continued research on the effects of Cesium-137, one of the main contaminants produced by Chernobyl. His work was banned because the Belarusian government wanted to continue using agricultural lands despite the evidence of continued contamination. Bellona, an international environmental NGO, has worked on Bandazhevsky’s case and many other cases connected to the damage done by Chernobyl.
Over the years, international actors like Bellona collected invaluable evidence of Chernobyl’s massive environmental impact, whether it be Cesium levels or a continuously contaminated food chain. These effects were never limited to Ukraine or the territory that used to be the USSR. The impact of Chernobyl and the cooperation between governments and non-governmental actors in discovery, decontamination, and analysis highlight the need for more cross-border transparency and cooperation in the sphere of peaceful nuclear energy.
The documents <nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6890905-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 01-CC-CPSU>

<nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6890905-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 01-CC-CPSU>
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6890905-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 01-CC-CPSU> Document 01
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6890905-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 01-CC-CPSU> CC CPSU Politburo Discussion of the Accident at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station. Top Secret. Only copy.

Source: Archive of the President of the Russian Federation (APRF), Record of Session of the CC CPSU Politburo, 3 July 1986, working copy, excerpts published in Rudolph Pikhoia, Sovetskii Soyuz: Istoriya Vlasti, 1945-1991 (Novosibirsk: Sibirskii Khronograph, 2000), pp. 434-437
Excerpts from the official top secret working copy of this Politburo session were partially published by Rudolph Pikhoia, the first head of the Federal Archival Service of the Russian Federation. The following excerpts include a full presentation by Boris Shcherbina, in which he reports on the findings of the State Commission created to investigate the causes of the Chernobyl accident. He clearly identifies two main causes-gross violations of security procedures committed by the station’s staff, but also flaws in the design of the reactor. He tells the Politburo that RBMK nuclear reactors working in the USSR, but also sold to socialist countries, “were incompatible with modern safety requirements.” The report reveals a shocking picture of failures in the Soviet nuclear energy industry: “During the 11th five-year plan, there were 1042 emergency shutdowns of power blocks, among them 381 at nuclear power stations with the RMBK reactor.” Shcherbina names specific agencies and individuals as being responsible for the accident: “The Commission believes that the Ministry of Medium Machine Building (Minister cde. Slavsky), its Institute of Power Technologies (the main designer of the reactor), and the Kurchatov Institute of Nuclear Power (scientific advisor) also bear responsibility for the accident. The designers who worked on this reactor (cdes. Dollezhal, Yemelyanov), did not ensure the required level of safety of the RMBK reactor, and did not evaluate its reliability with a critical eye.” The report prompts significant discomfort among the Politburo members and invited experts present.
This document presents a fascinating account of a rare “fight” at the Politburo, where representatives of various agencies tried to shift blame onto one another and protect their turf. Gorbachev blasts the nuclear industry leadership and academic scientists for making the wrong decisions, especially regarding placing nuclear power stations close to cities-as if they had not been considered and approved by the party leadership and the Politburo itself. <nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6890461-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 02-Central>
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6890461-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 02-Central>
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6890461-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 02-Central> Document 02
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6890461-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 02-Central> Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Report: Collection on Chernobyl Disaster

Source: CIA Freedom of Information Act release
This is a heavily redacted memo to the Director of the CIA from the deputy director for weapons and scientific research, produced at the DCI’s request soon after the accident. The report contains an assessment of information available about the Chernobyl and other RBMK reactors before the incident and the timeline of discovery across Europe, specifically in Sweden and the United States, which shows that the CIA only learned about the accident on April 28-first from Sweden and then from the official Soviet announcement. The memo concludes that more information on the incident should be collected and suggests a number of steps to improve responsiveness to future crises. Although the memo is heavily redacted, one can see that the Agency was not fully satisfied with its collection efforts on Chernobyl.
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6890462-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 03-Chernobyl-Its>
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6890462-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 03-Chernobyl-Its>
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6890462-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 03-Chernobyl-Its> Document 03
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6890462-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 03-Chernobyl-Its> Chernobyl-Its Impact on Sweden

Source: National Institution of Radiation Protection, Statens Stralskydd Institut.
This is the first comprehensive publication in English on Chernobyl’s effect on Sweden. The report reviews the early detection of signs of radioactivity, the collection and analysis of data by the Swedish Radiation Protection Institute and its notification of Swedish and local authorities. It outlines the emergency measures taken in Sweden after increased radiation levels were noticed. The document also explains in detail actions taken by the Swedish government to inform the public and to protect its citizens from radiation poisoning. An interesting finding of the report is that “the general public was not always satisfied with the information provided by the authorities, in spite of complete openness,” because information changed as new data was incorporated, confusing measurements were used, and the public did not fully trust the conclusions, especially in the early period after the accident.
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6890463-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 04-CC-CPSU>
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6890463-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 04-CC-CPSU>
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6890463-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 04-CC-CPSU> Document 04
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6890463-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 04-CC-CPSU> CC CPSU Resolution on a Letter from a group of participants of the liquidation of the accident at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station [Translation]

Source: Russian and Eastern European Archives Documents Database . Russian State Archive of Contemporary History, Fond 89, p. 53, d. 21.
This document contains a letter from a group of the participants in the liquidation of the accident at Chernobyl, commonly referred to as “liquidators,” and a CC CPSU Resolution demanding that their problems be addressed immediately. In an unusually emotional tone, the resolution describes the way the liquidators have been treated as “unacceptably heartless.” In the letter, the liquidators describe their current poor health as a result of various forms of radiation sickness and its probable long-term consequences, their poor treatment in a sanatorium, and the lack of promised compensation and housing. The undersigned complain about their inability to obtain even basic things like warm clothing for the winter and medications prescribed by their doctors. The letter was sent to the chief editor of Pravda, Viktor Afanasiev, who submitted it to the Politburo. <nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6890464-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 05-Akhromeyev>
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6890464-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 05-Akhromeyev>
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6890464-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 05-Akhromeyev> Document 05
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6890464-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 05-Akhromeyev> Akhromeyev report to CC CPSU on progress of decontamination around Chernobyl [Translation]

Source: Source: Russian and Eastern European Archives Documents Database. Russian State Archive of Contemporary History, Moscow, Russian Federation. Fond 89 opis. 53 d. 50
This report from Soviet Chief of General Staff Marshal Sergey Akhromeyev outlines the progress of the cleanup and decontamination by the Soviet military. One can see the enormity of the task and the systematic approach organized by Akhromeyev who was assigned to lead the military mitigation effort. Special construction troops decommissioned toxic areas including housing, areas around the nuclear power plant, and in the city of Pripyat’s neighborhoods. A table within the report further shows the progress of the decontamination efforts. The scale is truly staggering: 22.5 thousand servicemen and 6.5 thousand units of equipment were involved in the cleanup. The Soviet Air Force conducted 18,818 flights, “decontaminated around 2500 hectares of land, delivered 52,978 tons of special liquids, and transported 25,500 thousand people and more than 5.5 thousand tons of cargo.”
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6890465-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 06-Report-from>
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6890465-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 06-Report-from>
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6890465-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 06-Report-from> Document 06
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6890465-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 06-Report-from> Report from Ukrainian Ministry of Health to USSR Minister of Health Chazov [Translation]

Source: Russian and Eastern European Archives Documents Database. Russian State Archive of Contemporary History, Moscow, Russian Federation. Fond 89 opis 56 d. 7
In this report to the Ministry of Health of the USSR, Ukrainian Minister of Health A.E. Romanenko reviews measures undertaken by the Ukrainian public health system to mitigate the health consequences of the Chernobyl accident. The report presents a picture of wide-spread screening of the population living in areas of elevated radiation levels and a truly gigantic effort to examine and treat those who suffered damage to their health. All medical institutions and research institutes both at the republican level and locally were involved in testing and public education work. Special attention was paid to the health situation of children, who were tested for thyroid damage at least 2-3 times in 1986 alone. Special standards for nutrition and free food were approved for children, although, the report shows, they were sometimes violated. The Ukrainian Health Minister informs Minister Chazov that doctors, nurses, paramedics, and medical students all have been sent to help.
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6890534-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 07-The-Soviet>
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6890534-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 07-The-Soviet>
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6890534-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 07-The-Soviet> Document 07
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6890534-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 07-The-Soviet> The Soviet Nuclear Power Program After the Chernobyl Accident. SOVA Research Paper

Source: CIA Freedom of Information Act release
This previously secret report analyzes the Soviet response to the Chernobyl accident and its impact on the future of Soviet energy production. The report confirms the economic downturn in the energy sector for the USSR in the months after the explosion, but adds that the USSR still has big plans for nuclear energy despite the accident. The Soviet leadership is committed to reducing the country’s dependence on oil and gas, substantial investment in the nuclear energy had been made, and the “antinuclear elements of public opinion will have only a week effect.” Out of the 35 planned reactors to be built between 1986-1990, the incident only set the USSR back 4-5 reactors because 80 percent of reactors being planned or currently under construction were to be of a new newer type. The RBMK reactors that will remain in use will be fixed to add safety features. The report provides a succinct explanation of the causes and consequences of the accident, a timeline, and a description of the cleanup efforts. In terms of human costs, it mentions 31 initial casualties and more than 300 people requiring hospitalization, but predicts that in the long term “the overall statistical increase in cancer rates is likely to be minimal.” (Other estimates would vary greatly. For instance, Greenpeace concluded that 200,000 deaths could be attributed to the accident between 1990-2004.)
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6890467-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 08-On-the>
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6890467-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 08-On-the>
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6890467-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 08-On-the> Document 08
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6890467-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 08-On-the> On the Radiation Situation Caused by the Accident at the Chernobyl NPP. Map of radiation levels [Translation)

Source: Russian and Eastern European Archives Documents Database . Russian State Archive of Contemporary History, Fond 89, op. 56, d. 10.
The State Hydrometeorology Committee reports on the radiological situation in the area contaminated by the Chernobyl accident. More than a year has passed since the accident and the radiological situation has stabilized-it has not changed significantly between June 15 and 30. The levels of radiation in the main rivers of the Dnepr waterbasin has remained within the permissible levels established by the Health Ministry. The situation with radiation in Moscow remains “favorable.” The report includes a map of radiation levels in the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic (SSR), Belorussian SSR, and the Russian SSR on July 1, 1987. The map shows the radiation measurements in milliroentgen/hour, as well as the 30-km exclusion zone around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. The legend includes a guide to the danger of different levels of radiation.

Document 09
Letter from A.D. Sakharov to M.S. Gorbachev [Translation]

Source: Russian and Eastern European Archives Documents Database . Russian State Archive of Contemporary History , Fond 89, op. 53, d. 81.
In this letter to Mikhail Gorbachev, nuclear physicist and dissident Andrei Sakharov objects to the exclusion of public opinion from the formulation of nuclear energy policy in the USSR. Sakharov writes about the obstruction of the publication of G.U. Medvedev’s novel The Chernobyl Notebook, and his belief that it is essential that all citizens of the USSR know “all the circumstances of the Chernobyl disaster.” He insists it is illogical for those outside of the Soviet Union to know more about what happened in the USSR than Soviet citizens. Sakharov notifies Gorbachev that he “will act so that [this work] is broadly known” to the international community.
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6890469-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 10-Kiev-Oblast>
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6890469-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 10-Kiev-Oblast>
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6890469-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 10-Kiev-Oblast> Document 10
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/dc.html?doc=6890469-National-Security-Archive-Doc- 10-Kiev-Oblast> Kiev Oblast Party Committee Report to the CC CPSU on an Attempt to Create an Independent Organization of Liquidators. [Translation]

Source: Russian and Eastern European Archives Documents Database . Russian State Archive of Contemporary History , Fond 89, opis. 53, d. 82.
In this report to the Central Committee from the Kiev oblast committee to the CC CPSU, information is provided about an effort to create an independent advocacy group of workers who helped to liquidate the effects at Chernobyl. The report contains a biography on the founder, Grigory Lepin, (with three previous party reprimands) and discusses the group’s goals, which include creating a network of primary organizations, holding regular conferences, and assisting with social welfare issues. The most problematic issue with the group charter is that it plans to carry out “effective oversight of the effectiveness of the work to eliminate the consequences of the accident at the Chernobyl NPS, including oversight of the use of funds disbursed for these purposes.” The Slavutich city party committee deemed creation of such a committee “inexpedient” because of the lack of support among workers and did not approve the convening of the founding conference. The planned event never took place.

<nsarchive.gwu.edu/sites/default/files/thumbnails/image/photo_2_0.jp g>
Doctors participating in the IAEA’s International Chernobyl Project in the 1990s examine a child in Ukraine to assess the radiological consequences of Chernobyl on local populations. Copyright: IAEA Imagebank. Photo Credit: Ukrainian Society for Friendship and Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries (USFCRFC)
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A soldier called up for clean-up operations at Chernobyl. Copyright: IAEA Imagebank. Photo Credit: Ukrainian Society for Friendship and Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries (USFCRFC)

<nsarchive.gwu.edu/briefing-book/russia-programs/2020-05-15/top-secr et-chernobyl-nuclear-disaster-through-eyes-soviet-politburo-kgb-us-intellige nce-volume-2?eType=EmailBlastContent&eId=d700996e-05c4-44f8-ad76-472dd8133c6 7#_ednref1> [1] U.S. Embassy Moscow cable to Secretary of State, Subject: Codel Exon Meeting with Russian Academician Velikhov, 30 January 1992, State Department F-2014-10853.
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/briefing-book/russia-programs/2020-05-15/top-secr et-chernobyl-nuclear-disaster-through-eyes-soviet-politburo-kgb-us-intellige nce-volume-2?eType=EmailBlastContent&eId=d700996e-05c4-44f8-ad76-472dd8133c6 7#_ednref2> [2] Chernobyl: Assessment of Radiological and Health Impact 2002 Update of Chernobyl: Ten Years On. Chapter IV. <www.oecd-nea.org/rp/chernobyl/c04.html> Dose estimates. The Nuclear Energy Agency.
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/briefing-book/russia-programs/2020-05-15/top-secr et-chernobyl-nuclear-disaster-through-eyes-soviet-politburo-kgb-us-intellige nce-volume-2?eType=EmailBlastContent&eId=d700996e-05c4-44f8-ad76-472dd8133c6 7#_ednref3> [3] Health effects of the Chernobyl accident: an overview. <www.who.int/ionizing_radiation/chernobyl/backgrounder/en/> WHO. April 2006.
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/briefing-book/russia-programs/2020-05-15/top-secr et-chernobyl-nuclear-disaster-through-eyes-soviet-politburo-kgb-us-intellige nce-volume-2?eType=EmailBlastContent&eId=d700996e-05c4-44f8-ad76-472dd8133c6 7#_ednref4> [4] How much radiation is too much? A handy guide. <www.pbs.org/wnet/need-to-know/the-daily-need/how-much-radiation-is-t oo-much-a-handy-guide/8124/> By Brianna Lee, Need to know on PBS. March 22, 2011.
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/briefing-book/russia-programs/2020-05-15/top-secr et-chernobyl-nuclear-disaster-through-eyes-soviet-politburo-kgb-us-intellige nce-volume-2?eType=EmailBlastContent&eId=d700996e-05c4-44f8-ad76-472dd8133c6 7#_ednref5> [5] Regulatory Dose Limits. <hps.org/publicinformation/ate/faqs/regdoselimits.html> Health Physics Society.
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/briefing-book/russia-programs/2020-05-15/top-secr et-chernobyl-nuclear-disaster-through-eyes-soviet-politburo-kgb-us-intellige nce-volume-2?eType=EmailBlastContent&eId=d700996e-05c4-44f8-ad76-472dd8133c6 7#_ednref6> [6] Liquidators Live With Legacy Of Chernobyl. <www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2006/04/21/commentary/world-commentary/ turning-point-at-chernobyl/#.XSdcWZNKi3U> By Christian Borys, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, April 23, 2016
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/briefing-book/russia-programs/2020-05-15/top-secr et-chernobyl-nuclear-disaster-through-eyes-soviet-politburo-kgb-us-intellige nce-volume-2?eType=EmailBlastContent&eId=d700996e-05c4-44f8-ad76-472dd8133c6 7#_ednref7> [7] Turning point at Chernobyl. <www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2006/04/21/commentary/world-commentary /turning-point-at-chernobyl/#.Xr55qWhKiUl> By Michail Gorbachev, The Japan Times. April 21, 2006.
<nsarchive.gwu.edu/briefing-book/russia-programs/2020-05-15/top-secr et-chernobyl-nuclear-disaster-through-eyes-soviet-politburo-kgb-us-intellige nce-volume-2?eType=EmailBlastContent&eId=d700996e-05c4-44f8-ad76-472dd8133c6 7#_ednref8> [8] The ‘liquidator’: He cleaned up after Chernobyl <www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2016/04/17/liquidator-chernobyl-30 th-anniversary/82895730/> – and is paying the price. By Kim Hjelmgaard, USA TODAY. April 17, 2016.

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