L'oeil public


Twenty-four years after the disaster, the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant and the burial grounds of military equipments in Ukraine are now being pillaged. Each week, more than two hundred tons of radioactive metal are leaving the exclusion zone.

During the turmoil that followed the explosion of the fourth reactor of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in 1986, the authorities made up for the quickest and the most urgent way : burying some highly contaminated villages. Building here and there burial grounds where tons of radioactive metal should have stayed for centuries. Circling the town of Pripyat with a metal fence to avoid any looting. Developing guarded lands to store the vehicles that had been exposed to radionuclides. Even if the confinement process had been planned in an emergency, it was meant to be exemplary.
But a quarter of century later, most of the burial grounds have been emptied. The military equipments are now being pillaged, such as whole parts of the power plant. Pripyat, the city where the plant workers used to live, evacuated the day just after the explosion, is now being dismembered inch by inch. In late 2009, scrap metal merchants have taken all the radiators in the apartments. When the weather is warming up, they will be interested in the window-glasses, heavily exposed to the radiations.

Officially, the International Atomic Energy Agency based in Vienna, Austria, pretends * not to be aware * of these facts. But since the fall of the Soviet Union and the Ukrainian independence in 1991, this vast land is now a free zone, with its own rules and its influence quarrels, its recycling companies and various trafficks. It is now a State within the State, with its own black gold : metal.Giving proof of this underground economy, crime is developing itself. In 2007, a stock of copper and nickel tubes coming from the Buriakovka burial ground has been intercepted outside the exclusion zone. Their contamination rate was 23 times higher than the legal standards. In May 2009, ten tons of metal disappeared. The radioactivity rate was above 30 000 microRems, a thousand times higher than the authorised level. During the night of September 10th 2009, a shipping of 25 tons of untreated metal has been stopped by Ukrainian Intelligence Service. It mainly consisted of tubes found in the whereabouts of Reactor 4 and their radioactivity rate was thirteen times higher than the legal level.
According to many observers, 8 million tons of metal were laying all over the exclusion zone after the explosion. Today, only two million tons remain and we value this stock at 1 billion hryvnias (100 million euros).


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