Blog posts


Control room panorama

Last time I wrote a long post about visiting Chernobyl's Control Room 4, the epicenter of the disaster. It is dark and skeletal. In contrast, here is Control Room 1.

Oleg Ryazanov is a Control Room Shift Supervisor in the Chernobyl 1st Block. His job is to sit in an empty room watching inactive machinery and make sure nothing happens. (Click photo to see larger).
Unlike the destroyed 4th Block, the other 3 reactors at Chernobyl are still functional. Although they have been shut down since 2000, they could be restarted at any time. (Theoretically. Only theoretically. If politics and world opinion did not exist.)

I am now working on a series of panoramic portraits of Chernobyl employees en milieu. The photos are equally about the people and the places they inhabit. Daily lives in this unique environment. This is Oleg Ryazanov, Chernobyl control room shift supervisor.

If the reactor was active, Oleg would oversee three other operators. As it is, he sits in an empty room and does, essentially, nothing. But it is a very important nothing, as there is still nuclear fuel in temporary storage in the reactor hall. As long as the fuel remains inside, Oleg and his peers will continue to sit in their seats all day and all night.

How long will the fuel remain? A very good question. I can tell you only this: many others have wondered the same thing.

Oleg did not work at Chernobyl at the time of the accident. He came later, "because the package on offer was good - more pay and a bigger apartment."

"I earn about 4,000 hryvnia per month [about US$500], which is quite high on the power station's pay scale. In Ukraine it is a very good salary. My job is to keep the reactor under control, to keep the water cooling system running and to monitor the spent fuel tanks."

"It's depressing. Soon my job will cease to exist. I can only do the job I was trained to do for another two years here... I don't rule out going to work abroad. People have gone from here to China and Iran. I would not go to Iran, but China is a possibility."
(Oleg interviewed by Stephen Mulvey/BBC).

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