Saturday, March 26, 2016

26.3.16 (#85) The Night of the Accident by Myron Lysenko

The weather is warm and the sky is clear
when the plant workers clock on for the night shift
They talk of plans for the May Day holidays
before they begin the safety test of the water pumps
in the newly commissioned No 4 reactor.

At midnight, in the control room two senior engineers
begin to argue with the deputy chief engineer Dyatlov
about the correct power level at which to start the test.
The two senior engineers argue that the power is too low
but Dyatlov overrules them.

At 1.20am on April 26 1986, the test begins.
The power levels are lowered,
but drop too low and the reactor grinds to a stop.
A water shortage in the reactor sets off an alarm
but Dyatlov orders the engineers to continue.

They don’t know there is a flaw in the reactor
that makes it unstable when run on low power.
A hot spot is building deep at the bottom of the core.
The power to the turbine is turned off.
Steam pressure inside the core starts lifting

the 350 kilogram caps of fuel rods out of their sockets.
The engineers try to reduce the power but it’s too late –
the power surges hundreds of time higher.
Power is doubling every second
and more alarms are going off.

Steam pressure in the reactor’s hot spots
cannot be contained.
Fifty fuel rod shafts are torn apart.
The power escalates and turns the reactor
 into a volcanic steam pressure cooker.

The reactor explodes and the plant loses all its electricity.
Seconds after the first explosion there is another one
and the reactor becomes a giant blowtorch
blasting the roof off sending 50 tonnes of nuclear fuel into the air,
ten times greater than Hiroshima.

The next day the Soviet government
makes an announcement:
An unsatisfactory radioactive situation has occurred
and as a temporary precaution all 135,000 people
must evacuate from the neighbourhood of Pripyat.

Graffiti is pictured on a wall in the ghost city of Pripyat near the fourth nuclear reactor (background) at the Chornobyl Nuclear Plant. 


  1. This is a scary series, but must be realistic

    1. Thanks, I appreciate your support with this series of documentary poems. (I actually call them research poems, but Kevin Brophy referred to them as documentary poems and I like that much better.

  2. "The next day..." Horrendous. On the day of the accident, a close friend living in the Midlands, UK pottering in his shed couldn't believe it when his Geiger counter suddenly went nuts - he's a scientist and he knew immediately that his machine was not playing up.

    1. Thank you Efi. What else did your friend say? I'm fascinated.

  3. The tension in it is so well done. I have kept searching back over the poems to find this one again, (and just did) as I have wanted to say something but haven't been able to think of anything adequate. It is a great series to work on, Myron. Efi, that geiger counter in the Midlands story sounds like it has the seed of a poem in response to me. :) (That sort of poem would take me a couple of years to write though I reckon!) :)

    1. Thank you, Sarah. I appreciate all responses to my Chornobyl suite. Am very pleased to learn that there is tension ion this poem and that it works.

  4. Sarah, go for it. ;) I've been sitting on it for over a decade, since he told me. (Thank you for jogging me along...)


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