Latest modern: light volumes under the shadow of Chernobyl.

Latest modern: light volumes under the shadow of Chernobyl. By: Gonzalo Carrasco Purull + Pedro Livni.

Temple of Nature and Reason.

Etienne-Louis Boullée projected to the year 1793 an engraving entitled «Temple of Nature and Reason.» It consists of a drawing showing a section of a building consisting of three staggered levels that end in a dome. This architecture of elementary volumes, contains within it a kind of grotto, which can not be accessed, but that only can be contemplated. Three observation points are possible in the interior, both located in a barrel vaults that open into the cave, in addition to the provision of a circular gallery that allows the view from the top. While all this architecture – which serves as a container to the cave – refers to a world dominated by strict logic – that architecture makes this a «reasoned» in the broadest sense. The cave serves as its opposite, as the antinomy, as the term – which since its negativity – complete the sentence dialectic unresolved nature and rationale of the combination.To Boullée, as for much of modern thought, is the reason for custody serving nature of the random domain, the accident, the fragmentary. For illustration, the chaos that brings nature – which often finds expression through the catastrophe and disaster – must be protected, content for any reason. This in the end it must prevail. The control will therefore be the preferred mechanism for modern thought to give limits on working from nature unpredictable. The modern is the field since it likely to be controlled, what can be labeled, signed, qualified. The modern is what you have limits, the safe area of ​​the reason that all lights, leaving no boundaries undefined.

The historian Emil Kaufmann in his classic text «De Ledoux to Le Corbusier», would reach the Enlightenment – and so-called «revolutionary architects, and Ledoux, Boullée and Lequeau – the roots of» modern architecture. » For Kaufmann Le Corbusier who would best channel the ideas and arguments of revolutionary architects. There would be something like a «thread of Ariadne» that would link the thought occurred during the Enlightenment and modern architecture. The control of the accident, the catastrophe and chance through «volumes and light» – elementary categorical – is an argument that migrate from the late 18 th century until the early decades of the 20th century. Le Corbusier himself in his «Vers une architecture» – specifically its «Lesson of Rome», deduct the key to their solid basic architecture, from the imperial government buildings. All buildings that served as containers.Containment and basic architecture, logic, reasoned propositions are all that comprise the modern discourse. In constant struggle with all the rough, fragmentary, elusive and resist being controlled.

Disaster: the logic of an incomplete world.

Century 20 can not be explained without the emergence of nuclear energy. Much of the wars, victories and defeats, as well as geopolitical and economic shocks of the last century can be read from the heat from the core of a nuclear reactor. With nuclear power, on the one hand, the modern world reached one of his greatest victories – the sun’s energy locked in the stars – at the same time as scoring one of his most bitter defeats. Hiroshima and Nagazaki first, and after Chernobyl, are names under which include, among others, all the dashed hopes of a thought since the Enlightenment believed to shape the world by controlling totalizing reason.

What spoke behind him that morning of April 26, 1986 was the strength of a reality dominated by chaos and arbitrary due to the accident and catastrophe. That as the demon of Norbert Wiener, ends blow to the checkers. The nature, fate, providence, ended up returning the form to a world that relies on the «stability» of chaos.

Were many technical and human errors that were added that Saturday’s early spring.A time where the fields of Ukraine colored dress and where scantily clad people walk in shirtsleeves. It was at 1:24 in the morning, when the reactor number 4 of the Chernobyl plant exploded, releasing into the atmosphere 200 tons of radioactive material – the equivalent of 100 to 500 Hiroshima bombs. In what was until the disaster of Fukushima, the biggest nuclear disaster in history.

The first hours after the disaster at Chernobyl, were of absolute secrecy. The Soviet authorities – who ran the empire twilight – decided to act as if nothing had happened.Chernobyl plant was the most important of the Soviet Union, so the only information of the accident, put at risk the role played within the world political stage. This is compounded by the presence of highly secret military installations in the vicinity of Chernobyl, as were the early warning radar installed to stop any U.S. nuclear attack on Soviet soil.

It was not until two days after the accident, and because the levels of radiation released by the burning of the reactor 4 is that the authorities decided to lower the iron curtain erected around Chernobyl. This is how it sent a contingent of more than 3,500 people assigned to contain the disaster. A contingent – later known as the «liquidators» – composed of firefighters, soldiers, officer and Soviet volunteers. A group that came in the following months, to add about 600,000 people.

Until they reached the «liquidators», the population of Pripyat – in the vicinity of the plant – were leading their lives relatively normal. The children were playing in the courtyards of the houses, squares and parks. Still drinking milk and water at Chernobyl. Pripyat was founded in 1970 to accommodate future workers of the nuclear plant would be commissioned in 1977. At the time of the accident had about 48,000 inhabitants and was one of the locations where they got the best salaries in the Soviet Union. In Pripyat, you could say that life was good.

The «liquidators» in turn faced a radioactive hell, armed with the minimum. Not fireproof suits, helmets or even who participated controlling those early months of the disaster at Chernobyl would kill time dying of cancer, victims of high levels of radiation to which they were exposed. Moreover, the radioactive fumes spread rapidly through the atmosphere around the planet, mainly affecting the European continent. Proceeds from this is that the number affected by the effects of Chernobyl radiation cross the territory of Ukraine, Belarus and Russia, with effects that have not yet sized real magnitude. The World Health Organization estimated at 9,000 the death toll, while Greenpeace raised the figure to 93,000. To this, you can sum the thousands of people who were obliged to leave their homes. The UN for its part, estimates that 7,000,000 people currently live in areas with radioactivity levels exceeding allowable limits, the result of Chernobyl.


After the mass evacuation, the Soviet authorities lifted an exclusion zone around Chernobyl in 2000, which became a city once ebullient as Pripyat, in ghost towns. The exclusion zone around Chernobyl has a radius of 30 km, beyond which is an area of ​​»resettlement.» Both have a total of 2,600 square kilometers, of which 1,500 to 2,000 will never be fit to live. This is because the radioactive isotopes have a half-life of 24,000 years. Only decreased levels of cesium and strontium will have to wait at least 300 years.

The Ukrainian authorities at a convention held last week in Kiev, issued a Atlas updated data product levels of radioactivity of the Chernobyl disaster. The report notes the high levels reached in the soil around Chernobyl, cesium-137, Strontium-90 and plutonium 238, 239 and 240. Along with this, is forecast to increase levels of americium in the year 2056, date when the concentration of americium-241 reaches its maximum value of the decay product of plutonium-241.

However, despite the establishment of the exclusion zone, the Ukrainian authorities have recently opened Chernobyl as a tourist destination. For a fee of $ 470 can travel to Chernobyl and spend a night near the nuclear plant, 15 kilometers from this. In trips organized by agencies authorized by the Ministry of Emergencies of Ukraine, you can walk the streets deserted city of Pripyat and obtain views of the ruins of the plant.Where today are still working on the cleanup. Despite the fact that it is forbidden to place objects of Chenóbil, looting of nuclear souvenir, Chernobyl has been stripped of most of the objects that the inhabitants of Pripyat left the day of the great escape.

However, despite the devastation seen in pictures of streets and interiors of Chenóbil, nature has retaken his seat. Patches of grass are everywhere, filling the void left by a past that no longer exists. In the solitude of an amusement park whose wheel stopped their march, the time of nature seems to have been restored. The chaos of the disaster, by eliminating the control of modern technology, restored the order of the fragmentary, of the unpredictable, the natural world.

The coffin and the vault.

In the days that followed the Chernobyl disaster, teams of «liquidators» managed to temporarily stop injecting radioactive cement leakage into the reactor room of the plant. An operation in the manner of execution by Rachel Whiteread casts that conform to the shape of the container, performed with the haste that gives emergency. A palliative approach that over time, due to cracking of concrete, has been insufficient.

If Rachel Whiteread casts operate as solid corporeal negativity evident in his life, a story long past and dead, in the manner of embalming, in an attempt to maintain and preserve the traces of the body, traces of what happened. The solid reactor, although replica and complete his own body in the discharge of concrete, operates as containment and concealment of a core is always alive, realizing the closeness of the recent past, technologically incomplete exceeded commonly proposed, trying to the sarcophagus to cover their tracks.

Despite constant warnings carried out by scientists and officials that the Chernobyl sarcophagus is cracked, it was not until the disaster of Fukushima last March that there was no consensus and, above all political will to tackle the problem of Chernobyl.

Thus last week was held in Kiev a multinational meeting aimed at solving the leakage of reactor, which if not remedied, could mean 95% leakage of radioactive material still inside the reactor stay.

The meeting in Kiev was the third of its kind, joining the conference in New York (1997) and Berlin (2000), in which it had set 2008 as deadline to the Chernobyl containment works.

Containment projects dating from the nineties and managed by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). The first project involves the construction of a large warehouse to house nuclear waste were produced by the plant until 2000, when it was finally closed. This project, run by the French company Framatome, was inconclusive, being abandoned in 2005 by technical defects. Now rising near the plant as a magnificent monument to human incompetence.

The second project – carried out by the Novarka business conglomerate – is a structure in the form of a vault of steel and concrete of 190 meters wide and 105 feet high. A size that is able to contain inside the Cathedral of St. Paul’s in London or the Statue of Liberty in New York.

This mega-structure of 20,000 tons of steel and cost $ 785 million, is intended to be built in five years. The very high radiation levels reached on the ground, make it impractical to build directly on this. So the structure has to be built almost entirely by prefabricated elements.

The site of the work is divided into three areas. One for the same plant – in order to contain – an area waiting to mount components and assembly area under parts. In the latter, as a first operation, built a series of concrete foundations designed to provide support for the cranes that built the dome. These concrete foundations not only accommodated but also much of the radioactive waste generated by the plant. Thus, the substructure of the dome functions as a department store radioactive, secured by multiple layers of concrete. On this platform, perform the assembly tasks. The steel components are assembled and transferred to the job site, where they connect with each other in an arc quadrilateral. Which is lifting and shaping a first segment of the dome. Operation is repeated for the second segment, which once finished mount is attached to the first segment, thus shaping the vault.

All environmental control facilities within the vault and are incorporated, thereby minimizing the number of operations carried out on site. This is to reduce the number of workers required and hours of exposure to the polluted atmosphere of Chernobyl.Thus for many of the tasks, contemplates the use of robots and tele-guided machinery, in order to avoid scenarios such as that suffered by the hundreds who were employed by the «liquidators.»

Once the structure is secured by lifting the concrete layers that protect both the action of the environment – particularly the risk of the presence of water into the reactor – and the prevention of future leaks. Inside the vault an entire system of facilities is designed to ensure control of the environment inside the reactor (moisture, temperature, oxygen, radiation), which is expected to be dismantled when it becomes a bit more stable. That is, within about 100 years at least.

Once the dome is mounted in the assembly area, it is moved by rail in the direction of the plant, to completely cover the area corresponding to reactor.

Nuclear: a good business?

The total cost to implement containment operations Chenóbil amounts to $ 1.8 bn, of which at the last conference in Kiev, has been collected only a fraction of this. 28 countries signed the agreement in Kiev, of which the largest contribution came from the European Commission provided $ 143 million, while the United States led with $ 123 million and the United Kingdom with $ 50 million. So far, countries like Japan, Italy and Canada are studying the amount of their contributions. The cost so far has cost the government only Ukrainian Chernobyl, amounting to $ 12 bn.

Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev – President of the Soviet Union when the Chernobyl disaster occurred and now the head of the group Green Cross International «- used the conference to Kiev to show that nuclear power is not the answer to global energy problems or climate change. Gorbachev said that while nuclear energy has been presented as a solution suitable financially, economically efficient, clean and safe, this has been sustained primarily through heavy subsidies to the detriment of research on other energy sources. Only in the United States, direct subsidies to nuclear power between 1947 and 1999 amounted to $ 115 bn. Amount to which you have to add $ 145 for direct subsidies. In contrast, subsidies for the development of solar and wind energy – combined in the same period – do not exceed $ 5.5 bn.

Latest modern.
If realized the construction of the great vault of Chernobyl not only be the end of an era in which nuclear energy was seen as safe, clean and economically viable, but also mark the final construction of the modern operation. Thought in which the control was the way we relacionábamos with nature, chaotic, fragmented, unpredictable, entropy.

Chernobyl dome serves as the negative mirror of the geodesic dome that Fuller proposed for Manhattan (1962), in the Cold War, under the fear of a possible Soviet nuclear attack. The same operation two perfect shapes, barrel vaults and a mat that hides the cracked sarcophagus – which could see the living body of the reactor – to prevent the escape of radiation, a transparent hemisphere controlling the ambience of the city and prevented passage in turn, the possible entry of a potential radioactive nuclear attack. A modern utopia, control, faced with a reality post-Fukushima, disaster control.

And as the temple stood Boullee as a hymn to the power of reason as a force that shapes the world, guarding it, placing it safe from the disintegrating powers of nature.In what will be guarded Chernobyl, are the ruins of the era of control, that through the power of human technology contained the power of the stars. In Chernobyl the installation of the vault – with its soft volumes and light – a technology supplement and hide always incomplete, filled only through the solvent to the contingency translated in the accident and catastrophe.

In Chernobyl which will be raised, will be the last modern. VKPK 

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