Chernobyl Liquidators' Health
as a Psycho-Social Trauma
2.5. Definition of “a model liquidator”
of this study
As we see from the above, the notion of “the Chernobyl liquidator” actually embrace a huge population — quite impressive in its number, and extremely diverse as for many parameters of paramount importance to characterise the possible effect of “Chernobyl” upon the individual. Among these factors there are stage/period of the Disaster, at which the person participated, time of the stay, profession, occupation in the zone, social status in the zone and “in normal life”, degree of irradiation etc.
Attempts to deal with this huge bulk in one study (even much broader than this one) seems to be doomed to involve many hardly justifiable (or not justifiable at all) generalisations, or enormous amount of reservations. This way (at least at in this study) hardly seems to be productive.
In this work I will accept a different approach:
I will define a model “object”-liquidator of the study, to whom all said is applied without reservations, if not stated otherwise. It does not mean that the liquidators' sub-groups other than that of “the model” ones are not embraced by this study — but in each concrete case such “extrapolation” requires a special justification. This latter task goes beyond the scope of this work.
So, who is “the model liquidator” of this study?
1. In terms of the stage/period of the Disaster, it is a person who worked in the zone either in the second half of 1986, or in 1987. The results of this study are definitely not intended to cover the liquidators of April-May 1986, who were likely to endure essentially higher (external and internal) irradiation loads, though the conclusions may be to a certain extent relevant to them. June of 1986 constitutes a “grey” zone. July 15, 1986 — the last reported date of the end of the iodine period — can be accepted as a reliable borderline of the start of the time period in question. As for the liquidators of 1988—90 years, scarce data about the conditions of their work in the zone are available. However,
I have grounds to speculate that during this period radiation load upon the liquidators decreased but the social one increased; one the other hand, for the persons with higher social status (both in civil and military hierarchy) the zone possibly started to be a place for getting Chernobyl privileges rather than a place where one is exposed to its harmful factors. Thus, without special analysis the conclusions of the work should not be extended to the other time periods of the Disaster.
2. As for the irradiation dose, the model liquidator has received from several R to several 10's R of actual exposure of the body (several 1—10's cGy of the absorbed dose, or several 1—10's cZv of the equivalent dose). This is the estimation of real, actual exposure — not the one “documented” (or rather mis-documented) by this or that social mechanism of the dose registration. The liquidator always wore a respirator during his work at (or dealing with objects of) RA-levels more than, say, 10 milliR/h, or even lower than that under dusty conditions, and so didn't get “abnormal” (in Chernobyl sense) internal radiation exposure.
3. The liquidator is NOT a nuclear or nuclear-related professional.
4. The liquidator is NOT a volunteer (though he possibly was forced to sign some kind of statement that he had volunteered; especially it might have been the case for non-military liquidators). According to my observations, volunteers constituted a very small share of the liquidators, at least military: in my battalion of several hundred men there were 1—2 volunteers at a time.
5. The liquidator spent a long enough time in the zone — from, say, several weeks to several month: according to the order of the Minister of Defence of the USSR, the maximum term of stay at this “special military training” was equal to 6 month.
6. The liquidator is most likely to have served in Chernobyl wearing military uniform. This fact is not crucial for conclusions, and is based upon my observations that it was the army that provided a dominating share of “raw manpower” for a great number of works, which needed no high or special qualifications and skills.
7. “The model liquidator” of this study is a male. This is a mere reflection of a statistical fact, and of the fact of availability of very scarce data on the conditions of work in the zone and health of female liquidators. Women's participation in the mitigation (and its impact upon the health) involved certain specifics and deserves a special study.
Does such a “model liquidator” exist in reality? If so — what is their estimated number?
The answer for the first question should be, undoubtedly, “Yes”: the described entity does exist in reality. Thousands of the liquidators, whom I saw in person during my service in Chernobyl in July-August 1986, were perfectly fitting “the specification”.
As for the second question, unfortunately (and as usual in Chernobyl case), no exact statistics is available on this matter. However, taking into consideration that:
— total estimated number of the liquidators is within 600,000—900,000, and
— the most “massive” (in terms of demand of manpower, of their scale) works, like building of the Sarcophagus, clean-up of the NPP and the terrain, were done within the period in question (1986’s second half, and 1987),
— one of the Chernobyl-irradiated groups (B), totalling 10,000's, meet the dose requirement above, and a substantial share of the other (C), totalling 100,000's, is likely to meet the dose requirement (i.e. not to exceed the several-10's R's limit),
— according to data on the crystalline lens state, the majority of the liquidators have got less than 30 R, it seems sensible to assume that the number of the liquidators whose present health state, its possible causes, and ways to its better support are discussed in this study, has an order of magnitude of 100,000s18.
Design by: M.Opalev
Studio ARWIS Kharkov, 2001