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Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Battle of Chernobyl

The Battle of Chernobyl is a recent documentary made by Discovery Channel. Describes both the catastrophe and the aftermath and presents well informed neutral picture of the events. Some documentaries in my opinion are very biased and too demagogue - but this is not one of those. Contains rare original footage, pictures and some good re-enactments. Michael Gorbachev is also interviewed several times throughout the movie. Playtime is over 90 minutes, but it's well worth watching if you are interested in the topic. Hopefully it will not be removed soon due to the (obvious) copyright issues.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Unpacking the TERRA-P

The ECOTEST TERRA-P dosimeter finally arrived - fortunately unharmed by the journey. As you can see from the picture, the original package is very small - even compared to a pen. I was expecting the device to be relatively tiny, but in reality is even smaller than I imagined. It's like thick cellphone.The box contained the device itself, with batteries already installed. The batteries should actually last around 6000h in sleep mode and with normal radiation, but are user changeable. In addition to the device itself there is a detailed user's manual (in English:) and a colorful "Quick start" guide included by default. The manual shows the serial number of the dosimeter, quality check and calibration protocol and the warranty.
Somehow I did not expect such a nicely marketed product. I guess this is a common prejudice against post-communist countries. I have to tell that both the customer support and the product itself is flawless.
As soon as I took the device out of its plastic cradle, I managed to drop it on the floor. It is not a good idea to drop anything with a Geiger tube on the floor - since the component is pretty fragile Fortunately it survived the fall. I shall add that to the positive side of its properties;) And here is the dosimeter itself with the dose rate measurement taking place. Fortunately I have not found anything radioactive around me - and that's a good thing. :) The background radiation in my house is around 0.1microSv/h. Shows some slight variation, but that's due to the measurement precision. This is at the lower end of the background radiation still considered to be normal. I have no idea what is the actual long term exposure limit in my country, but supposedly in the Ukraine that is 0.3microSv/h. The device makes a "click" sound at each count, just as you would expect from a Geiger counter.
The back of the device has a second hinged door. It is hard to open, I'm kinda worried that it may break after a time. Anyways, under this door is the Geiger tube itself. The door has a thin lead lining, which blocks out Beta radiation. If one wants to measure Gamma radiation, leaves the door on. If you want to measure Gamma + Beta exposure you open the hatch. Logically the difference of the two measurements gives just the Beta radiation.
Well that's about it for now. These are the first impressions, I will write a review with more details as soon as I have the chance to play around with the device. I took some video footage too, will edit it into a usable form soon.

Friday, December 28, 2007

The package

It took exactly ten days to get my dosimeter from the Ukraine to Slovakia. The parcel arrived in good condition. I'd like to thank Oxana from ECOTEST for the very careful wrapping. This way the TERRA-P survived the journey, and I also got some bubble wrap to play with:)
Anyways, more pictures to come soon. Right now I'm to lazy to do that. So I will post the pics and some first impressions very soon. And no, I did not find anything radioactive in my house. At least nothing over the background. That's a good thing. ;)

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Chernobyl Street Art

Street art in the Zone? This sound bizarre enough, doesn't it? But if you've seen recent pictures from Pripyat, you may have noticed some strange graffiti on the walls. Most of these depict people, supposedly in their original environment. Screaming faces, playing children. Dark and disturbing images.
Right before the twentieth anniversary of the disaster, seven artists from Moscow, Minsk and Berlin traveled to Pripyat. As a strange artistic and social project, they've painted graffiti on the walls of homes and other buildings - interacting with the dead city. You can read more about the project and see their work on this site. Radiating Places - A requiem of a special kind.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Inside the Sarcophagus

There is a BBC Horizon documentary about Chernobyl on Google Video at the moment. I guess the upload violates every possible copyright law. Since it's been "dugg", I don't expect it to stay around much longer. But I highly reccomend to watch it.
There is some incredible archive footage I've not seen before. And believe me, I've seen a lot about Chernobyl. The film crew went inside the infamous reactor 4 control room and the sarcophagus. Even if I had the chance, there is no way I would do that. Especially with highly radioactive dust and extreme radiation around. Some of the footage makes me shiver, truly creepy:

Monday, December 17, 2007

Lookin' good!

Looks like the transfer went all right afterall. I was kinda worried, since the transcript from the bank did not show half of the information needed... I was already planning intricate conversations in my head: things to yell at the bank people. "Hooow could you screw this up, you sorry excuse for a human being" - you know, all the works. ;) But today I've received an email - from the best customer service I have encountered so far:

Dear G[...]
I am writing to inform you that today we have received your payment[...]. Thank you very much. We are planning to dispatch the TERRA-P to you tomorrow. I let you know about the shipment additionally.
With kind regards,

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Money transfer

I've made the money transfer to the Ukrainian company, which makes the geiger counter I've ordered. This was not so easy as it sounds. Unfortunately it is a royal pain in the ass to make a simple bank transfer. Even between two neighboring countries, like Slovakia and Ukraine. It is pretty sad, that you need to fill out endless forms - which even contains the home address of the beneficiary. Then the money travels from bank to bank, halfway across the world. Yeah, like it would be as simple as changing a couple numbers in a database. Or is it? I'm starting to value the power of Visa and MasterCard.
Right now I'm wondering whether the transfer was even successful. I'll know in a couple of days. Keep reading, will let you know. :)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Green light

I've talked to my thesis supervisor today. Actually he is also Danex's supervisor. We are supposed to have quals (preliminary exams) this spring, the question was whether the date would conflict with the planned trip to the Zone. According to the professor, the date for the exams is set to the end of February or beginning of March. That means we have about two months less to write up a first draft of the dissertation thesis. Not all that great. Especially that I have to use LaTeX . But hey, look at the bright side: we are clean to go to the creepy vacation :-)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Some pics I've stumbled upon...

Some pictures I've stumbled upon tonight, while browsing English Russia. Of course there are lots of good collections out there on the Internet, but I have not seen these ones yet. Eerie and dark as always. You can check out the first set here and the second one here. You might want to look around on for more on the topic.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Aaaand, we're back...

By that I mean, I'm back to Slovakia from Oxford - now I will have more time to deal with our little brain-child. It would be a shame to abandon this blog, wouldn't it?
Anyways, one of the reasons why there was no post lately was the lack of actual developments regarding the Chernobyl trip. Up to a couple of days ago.
About a month ago I made contact with a very nice lady from Ekotect, and agreed on the price and conditions of sale of a dose/dose rate meter. I told her, that I will have time to actually sort out the payment in december. Well, she did not forget about it either - so contacted me before I had a chance to do the same. Riht now we are negotiating the details, so the whole Chernobyl project is back on tracks again - assured by my travelling / blogging companion Danex as well.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Geiger-Mueller counter

My Geiger-Mueller counter just arrived. Unfortunately i am not at home at the moment, so i cant play and fiddle with it as i wish, but still i managed to get a few pics - kudoz to me mom! She said its really yellow and looks like a radio ;-). Enjoy!

Customer service

I've done a little research on my own regarding the Geiger counters. I would like to have one, unless it costs an arm and a leg. So I've started to dig up some sites, have a look at e-bay and I've found one device, called Terra-P from an Ukrainian manufacturer. (Will write about the device itself some other time.) It is small, portable and not too expensive. Maybe it is not an "object of desire" like danex's Victoreen, but it might be more useful and somewhat accurate. Although I will miss the retro look:)
So I've contacted the manufacturer "Ekotect" and received a fast reply from a very nice and helpful lady, called Oxana - supposedly their sales department manager. The price of the device is acceptable, although I found the shipping price somewhat high. After I asked if it would be possible to find another ways delivery, Oxana contacted me through ICQ right away and offered me several different options. After we agreed on one, she even reserved one device for me...
That's what I take as excellent and personal customer service. I was very pleased with that. It's extremely annoying when you want to contact a company, and have to follow through endless automated forms / phone-bots and the like to actually be able to communicate with a human.
I will most probably make an order when I get home from Oxford, and will tell more about the device itself.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Impulse buyer's guide

So I've talked to danex about going to Chernobyl, about a week ago. This was not the first time, but we have not been so serious about it before. I asked him yesterday, wether he wants to come with me. He said something like: "Hell yeah I want!" So that settled, we continued on chatting.
Not more than five minutes have elapsed, and he already bought a Geiger counter on e-bay. Not any counter, but a real cold-war era relic: a civil defense dose-rate meter.
So congrats to him, I'm really curious of his new toy. Although this device (at least according to the seller) is in perfect working condition, it is not calibrated. But it looks insanely cool with all its "retro mojo", and it makes the clicking / chirping sound. The one you'd expect from a Geiger counter. Isn't all that we need?:)He chose (after 2 minutes of careful research) a Victoreen CDV 700 6b, which is a true counter for fairly low level beta and gamma radiation. Although this is just what we need on our trip, in a real nuclear event - this type of device would give a false reading. At extreme high levels of radiation, the Geiger tube tends to saturate and give a low figure. This is exactly what happened in Chernobyl, after the incident occurred. They've sent out a guy, who came back with the information that the levels are safe. For such cases a so called survey meter is needed, which can measure radiation from 1-500rad (up to 5Sv)... These are enormously high levels, 500rad would certainly kill anyone in an hour.
You can read more about the civil defense Geiger counters on Wikipedia, or you may also check out e-bay. More on the Victoreen CD survey meters on "Civil Defense Museum" (excellent site, you can even see the original manual scanned) and there is a schematics page as well.
Hopefully when danex gets his CDV-700, he will write an extensive review for us.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Post zero

Just not to leave this blog lingering around, I will make a post - let's call it "post zero". The blog will begin, as soon as I make up my mind about the trip to Chernobyl. My intetnions are, that after a definitive decision I will hopefully start to document the preparations and the tour in the Zone itself.
If you are interested, please check back in a month or two.

Disclaimer, please read carefully

Before we start, we shall take care of some legal business. Its meant to cover our bases in the case unanticipated events, and from readers (idiots) who believe that other people should think and assess dangers for them. So before you go out in the wild and do something stupid, please read this:

Although we do believe there are no health related consequences of a short term visit to Chernobyl, the ultimate responsibility lies on the reader. The authors of this site bear no responsibility and are not liable - including but not limited to: health damage, potential loss of life, loss of property or finances as a result of using information published on this site. Please interpret published data, measurement values and figures with caution, take them rather as recommendations than facts.
- If you find a significant source of radiation with your Geiger counter / dose rate meter, immediately call the police or the proper law enforcement agency in your country. Do not try to disassemble or dispose of the source yourself, leave the area immediately to minimize exposure. Geiger counters designed for low to medium radiation levels can get saturated when exposed to extreme levels of radiation, and give false readings. Such devices are not suitable to survey the environment in the unlikely event of a nuclear disaster or attack.
- This site is not recognized or endorsed by any official institution. This site is not endorsing in any way particular radiological instruments, or other equipment. We are not connected in any ways to manufacturers, tour organizers etc.