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To:

ChristaTeston
From:
MaryStankiewicz,SarahNino,AmberSatola
Date:
October29,2014
Re:
CrisisCommunicationAuditofChernobyl

Introduction
TheChernobylcrisisonApril26,1986intheSovietUnioninvolvedanexplosionata
nuclearpowerplantthatreleasedfourhundredtimesmoreradiationintotheatmospherethanthe
atomicbombingofHiroshima(Paul,2014).Forthepurposeofthisreport,ourteamfocusedon
thegovernmentscommunicationwiththeresidentsimpactedbytheincident.Specifically,we
wantedtoanswerthisquestion:
Howmighttheresultsofthisdisasterhavebeendifferentifcommunicationhappened
soonerandwascommunicatedmoreeffectively?
Thereleaseoftheradiationfromtheexplosionhasresultedintheareabeingpermanently
evacuated(seeFigure1).Toassesshowcommunicationabouttheimmediatehealthriskswere
lackingandincreaseddamagesandhealthrisksweusedthecriteriaoftimeandpublicrisk.
Methods
Inourresearch,weusedGoogletoresearchtheincidentandthesequenceofeventsthat
occurredintheChernobylaccident.GiventhesecrecyoftheSovietUnion,wewereunableto
findprimarydocumentsexplainingtheeventortheresultingeffectsofthedisaster.Aftersifting
throughmanysecondarysourcesthatdiscussedChernobyl,wefoundfivesourcesthatgaveus
thenecessaryinformation.WeusedthefourstagesoftranslationfromLizaPottsbook
Social

MediainDisasterResponse
toanalyzehowtheSovietUnioncouldhavebetterhandledthe
disaster.
Results
Wediscoveredcommunicationaboutthedisasterwaslackingbeforetheeventtook
place.Ourresearchshowsthattheworkersthatstaffedthenuclearpowerplantonthenightof
theincidentwerenottaughttheseriousnessofradiationpoisoning,andaftertheexplosionstaff
wasnottoldwhatthesourceofthefirewas,orthattheywerebeingexposedtoradiationlevels
thatcouldkillthemminutes(Paul,2014).
ThefirstcommunicationfromthegovernmenttothepublichappenedonApril27,aday
andahalfaftertheexplosion,whentheresidentsweretoldtoevacuatefromtheirhomesandit
wasimpliedthattheywouldbereturning(JointPublication,1986).Anexcerptfromtheoriginal
evacuationannouncementsays,...leavingyourresidencestemporarilypleasemakesureyou
haveturnedoffthelights,electricalequipmentandwaterandshutthewindows.Pleasekeep
calmandorderlyintheprocessofthisshorttermevacuation(Paul,2014).

Citizenswerenot
toldtheseriousnessoftheevent,andmanyoftheworkersdidnotknowthelevelsofradiation
thattheywerebeingexposed
to(DeMao,2014).This
breakdownin
communication,accordingto
theUnitedStates
EnvironmentalProtection
Agencywasduetothe

closednatureofSovietSocietyandthattheSovietauthoritieseitherdidnotunderstandthe
severityoftheaccident,ortheyintentionallydownplayedit,(EPA,2014).OnApril28,
Swedendetecteddangerouslevelsofradiationintheair,whichforcedtheSovietUniontoadmit
totheaccidentatChernobyl
(JointPublication,1986).Thefollowingday,theWesternworld
wasfirstinformedabouttheaccident.Overthecourseoftwoweeks,thefirecontinuedtoburn
andreleaseradioactiveradiationover60,000squaremiles(see
Figure2DeMao
)of
presentdayUkraine,Belarus,andRussia.
Analysis
InLizaPotts
SocialMediainDisasterResponse
(2014)
,
shedescribesthefourstagesof
translation:problematization,interessement,enrollment,andmobilization.Sheexplainsthefirst
stageisproblematization,inwhichmainactorsidentifytheproblemandestablish
communicationabouttheevent(p.28).Immediatelyafterthedisastertookplace,theSoviet
Unionskippedthisstageandfailedtopublicallyrecognizethesituationathand,forfearof
inducingpanic.Thelackofaproblematizationstagemadeimplementationoftheotherstages
ineffective.
Thenextstagesareinteressementandenrollment,wheretheseactorsencourageothersto
becomeinvolvedwithcommunicatingandacceptthecommunicationresponse.Pauls(2014)
researchfoundthefollowing:
Becauseoftheinaccuratelowreadings,thereactorcrewchiefAlexanderAkimov
assumedthatthereactorwasintact.Theevidenceofpiecesofgraphiteandreactorfuel
lyingaroundthebuildingwereignored,andthereadings...weredismissedunderthe
assumptionthat...musthavebeendefective.Akimovstayedwithhiscrewinthereactor

buildinguntilmorning...Noneofthemworeanyprotectivegear.Most,including
Akimov,diedfromradiationexposurewithinthreeweeks.
Thefailureoftheinitialthreestagesresultedintheinabilityforthefinalstagetowork,inwhich
informationisvalidatedandmobilized.Hadthemaincrewandgovernmentnotbeensosecretive
withtheresidentsandtheworld,theycouldhaveutilizedstagestwoandthreeandencouraged
otherstobecomeactorsinthecommunicationofthedisaster.Thislackofknowledgeandactive
communicationresultedinthousandsofdeathsthatoccurredduringthenext20years(Paul,
2014).

Discussi
on
Giventheinformationthatwefoundregardingthiscrisis,
theSovietUnions
communicationabouttheChernobylcrisiswasineffective,inadequate,anddishonest.Earlier
evacuationandacompleteexplanationoftheeventandtherisksassociatedwithradiation
exposurewouldhavereducedtheeffectsofexposure.Theenvironmentaleffectsofthedisaster
arestillbeingevaluated,asaretheongoingcasualties,However,wecanseethattheimproper
handlingofthisdisasterhashelpedothercountries,liketheUnitedStates,developplans
preparationforasimilarcrisis(EPA,2014).
HadtheSovietUnionusedPottsfourstagescorrectlyintheircommunicationwiththe
public,thecommunicationwouldhavebeenmoreorganizedandeffective.Theuseofthefour
stagesinthiseventwouldhaveallowedotheractorstobecomeeducatedabouttheevent,inthis
casethelocalgovernmentagencies,andinformthemofaplanofaction.Theactorswouldthen
beabletoofferconcreteinformationabouttheeventandaplantoprovidethecitizenswith,

whichwouldpreventthepanicthattheSovietUnionfeared.Further,anincreasedlineof
communicationaboutthehealthriskswouldhavehelpedensurethatthosewhoneededtreatment
soughtit,andthattheexposuretoradiationwasminimizedinasmanywayspossible.

References
DeMao,Jason.(2014).
Chernobylabreakdownofcommunicationbetweenscientistsandthe
public.
Openstax.Retrievedfrom
http://cnx.org/contents/5a04673df41d4d96bcf285ce7a4cd67e@1/Chernobyl__A_bre
akdown_of_com
JointPublicationReports.(1986,August6).
USSRreport:aftermathofChernobylnuclear
powerplantaccident.
Retrievedfrom
http://www.paperlessarchives.com/FreeTitles/ChernobylJPRSReports.pdf
Paul.(2014,August12).
Radiationlevels
.Retrievedfrom
http://chernobylgallery.com/chernobyldisaster/radiationlevels/
Potts,Liza.(2014).
SocialMediainDisasterResponse
.NewYork,NewYork.Routledge.
(2014,January2).
EPAPresents:RecoveringfromaNuclearIncidentLessonsLearnedfrom
Chernobyl.
EnvironmentalProtectionAgency.Retrievedfrom
http://www.epa.gov/oem/content/community/multimedia.htm