Among my many accomplishments there is one that I am most proud of,
and that is the fact that I might have taken the most dangerous selfie in the world.
I am the man who appeared in a photograph
next to what is now called Chernobyl’s Elephant’s Foot’.
I’m the guy that set up a camera for a shot next to a great big pile of nuclear fuel
that contained melted concrete and metal,
a hyper-radioactive mass that was so dangerous when it formed
that if you stood next to it in minutes
the cells in your body would start to hemorrhage.
Stay there two minutes and you’d fall to the floor and start throwing up,
and if you hung around a minute longer within two days you’d be dead.
My name is Artur Korneyev and this is my story.
So, this is me standing next to that Elephant’s Foot
and you’re probably wondering how I’m able to speak to you today
given the fact that this shouldn’t be possible.
But let me start with how I got to that pile of heated death
before I tell you how I overcame it.
As you all know on April 26, 1986,
there was what you might call a pretty big problem at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine.
At Unit 4 of that power plant technicians had gone ahead with a safety test
which to say the least was ill-advised.
The reactor was blasted apart by steam, and what ensued was an eruption of radiation that
killed many people and scarred the very planet.
Some of the workers died immediately, but what people didn’t know at the time was
that many of the rescue workers and firefighters that got close to huge amounts of radiation
would die painfully and slowly.
That radiation would seep into their bodies and virtually eat them from the inside.
Thousands of others would take in smaller amounts of radiation
and just how many of them would die from radiation-related cancers is anyone’s guess.
Some of those people were the inhabitants of the city of Pripyat where the plant was located.
On the night of the disaster they gathered together
and watched in shock as a great beam of light lit up the night sky.
What they didn’t know is that
this thing they were observing was potentially their murderer.
It was chaos, utter chaos.
Soon the clean-up job was on the way and in all maybe half a million people were involved,
risking their lives for the safety of others…
and this is why I come in, your faithful and dedicated photographer.
I was sitting at home after the disaster
having been filled in by some of my colleagues over in Ukraine about just what had happened.
I had no idea as to the extent of the damage and just how destructive it would be
but I knew that what had happened would likely change the world forever.
Nuclear reactors are not supposed to explode.
How did I know any of that?
Well, you might not have heard of me,
but back when I was in my mid-30s when that reactor lid blew off,
in my native Kazakhstan I was considered perhaps the most renowned radiation specialist.
Not to blow my own trumpet, but let’s just say that me and radiation have had a very
long love-hate relationship.
I might well have been exposed to more radiation than anyone else on this planet
which is another of my great if not dangerous accomplishments.
I knew I’d get the call ‘Hey. Mr. Korneyev
we need your help, the Soviet Union needs your help.
Comrade Korneyev, your flight has been booked and we expect to see you today.’
科尔涅耶夫同志 您的航班预定好了 希望今天见到您”
In a way, that call might have translated to, ‘Comrade Korneyev,
总之 这通电话可理解成 “科尔涅耶夫同志
we are expecting you to go on a suicide mission.
Say goodbye to your loved ones now
because you likely won’t see them again.’
What you need to know about the blast, is that while the fire was incredibly big and
the radiation released nothing short of catastrophic
all that merely came from about five tons of fuel.
That was bad enough, but there was about 200 more tons of this highly radioactive fuel
still in the bowels of the plant.
If that went up the disaster would have been beyond anything you can imagine
and the fallout of that would have been bodies stacked from Ukraine to Sweden.
They wanted me to go into those bowels of the building and determine just how much radiation was leaking.
The mission was one of great importance
since the cleanup job couldn’t go ahead until they knew just how much radiation there was.
I bid farewell to my family and friends and assured them I would be back
and that I would return in good health, which was a lie of course,
but crying a river of tears is not how we did things back then in Kazakhstan.
I had a job to do and the safety of countless people was my responsibility.
I got on that plane and quickly downed two straight vodkas
something back home we might refer to as taking your medicine.
The place was chaotic when I arrived.
Men were rushing around, traipsing through muddy fields, sat in groups drinking vodka,
人们四处奔忙 趟着泥 坐一起喝伏特加
hardly saying a word to each other.
These were brave men, courageous souls, whose fearlessness in the face of death was astounding.
这些勇者 英魂 他们脸上的无畏让人震惊
I was told I would be taking a team into what you might call the belly of the beast.
That was a steel and concrete structure they’d built around the reactor
to limit the leakage of that dangerous radiation.
We called it the sarcophagus
and we all knew that any man that entered this structure might not have long to live.
When I first came eye-to-eye with the thing it was like walking up to the gates of hell.
There should have been a sign over the entrance that read, ‘Abandon hope all ye who enter here.’
What we discovered inside was beyond our expectations.
At first we just looked around and checked the levels of radiation.
Materials everywhere were leaking that stuff
and sometimes we just kicked hardened fuel out of the way.
As they say on TV, we don’t suggest you try that at home.
I wasn’t wrong when I compared the sarcophagus to hell.
That radioactive fuel had become so hot it had turned into a kind of hot sludge,
a lava that took with it anything in its path.
Uranium, zirconium, concrete, metal, sand, all flowed through the building
铀 锆 混凝土 金属 沙石 都流过该建筑
and eventually burned right through the floor.
It was a scene Satan himself would have been proud of.
Once that lava cooled down a bit it hardened, and in places we saw masses of it that looked
to us like waterfalls that had frozen.
11 tons of this stuff would in time pile up in one of the corridors,
and that giant mass would become what we called the Elephant’s Foot.
It would be my backdrop for the most dangerous selfie in the world.
For years I’d return to that place, despite the dangers, and check out radiation levels.
You have to remember that for a long time after this disaster stopped filling your dailyTV news channels,
inside the sarcophagus was still a very dangerous place to be.
Since I first arrived at Chernobyl those first few days after the disaster
I’ve been back hundreds of times.
I’ve seen the devastation and I have never relinquished my fear of the beast.
That foot you’ve seen me next to
when it was first formed gave off 10,000 roentgens an hour.
That might not mean much to you,
but it’s enough to kill a man if he stood next to it for a matter of minutes.
It took me some years to get near it,
but let me tell you, when I finally did it was still extremely radioactive.
So, you’re now wondering
just how I am still alive and telling you the story
how a 71-year old Kazakh is still speaking
when he should have been another victim whose life was painfully
ended by Acute Radiation Syndrome.
Well, you could say I have just been lucky.
The fact is viewers, I should be dead, but I’m not.
理论上作为观察员 我早该死了 但却没有
I don’t visit hell these days, but I’ve probably had my fair share of radiation over the years.
Even when I took a journalist down to see the Elephant’s Foot back in 2001
that mound of malignancy was still measuring 800 roentgens an hour.
To put that into perspective for you, the limit that is considered safe is 0.3 roentgens per week.
Ok, so these days my health isn’t great, but at least I’m alive.
I’m what you might call a bit on the sickly side and my vision isn’t what it used to be
but I’ve been to hell and back hundreds of times
and I’d go again if they hadn’t barred me.
Apparently they think I might have overdone it with the radiation exposure.
The radiation is contained now, but make no mistake,
it isn’t going to disappear just yet.
That Elephant’s Foot is still nice and warm, but I don’t suggest you visit and give it a rub.
Yep, things are better but that mound is still a formidable monster.
One thing I can tell you is that Soviet radiation is the best radiation in the world.
That’s one of my jokes by the way, you can call it Kazakh dark humor.
That’s a fascinating story in itself, but we’re guessing some you haven’t heard the
full story of the Chernobyl disaster.
Luckily for you then that here at the Infographics Show we’ve researched the matter a bunch of times.
So have a look at one of these videos.
‘How I Survived Chernobyl’ or ‘What Caused the Catastrophic Nuclear Accident in Chernobyl’
Among my many accomplishments there is one that I am most proud of,