New documents show Soviets covered up Chernobyl plant flaws before disaster

 New documents show Soviets covered up Chernobyl plant flaws before disaster

The Soviet Union knew the Chernobyl plant was a ticking time bomb for years before it melted down — but the government kept the nuclear facility running anyway.

Soviet leaders hid knowledge of the nuclear power plant’s flaws “to prevent panic and provocative rumors” before the catastrophic 1986 failure of the fourth reactor, according to new records released by Ukraine in conjunction with the 35th anniversary of the disaster.

The new documents reveal that, in 1982, safety monitors recorded an unplanned release of radiation at the plant, but the KGB suppressed news, Reuters reports.

“In 1983, the Moscow leadership received information that the Chernobyl nuclear power plant was one of the most dangerous nuclear power plants in the USSR due to lack of safety equipment,” Ukraine’s security service (SBU) said in a statement. In 1984, plant staff documented multiple other unspecified “emergencies.”

View of the Chernobyl Nuclear power plant three days after the explosion on April 29, 1986
View of the Chernobyl Nuclear power plant three days after the explosion on April 29, 1986.
SHONE/GAMMA/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

It would eventually be a failed safety test in 1986 that set the reactor aflame.

After the cataclysm, the Soviets went so far as to sic the KGB on a French journalist who had collected water and soil samples in 1987, according to the documents.

View of the Chernobyl Nuclear power plant three days after the explosion on April 29, 1986
View of the Chernobyl Nuclear power plant three days after the explosion on April 29, 1986.
SHONE/GAMMA/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Spies switched the dirt out for a dud that wasn’t radioactive.

More than 30 people died in the aftermath of the accident, which left a huge region around the plant uninhabitable to this day. But the longer-term death toll from radiation sickness remains a matter of debate.

The Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant is seen at the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone in Kiev region, Ukraine.
The Chernobyl nuclear accident on April 26, 1986 is regarded as the largest of its kind in the history of nuclear energy.
Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

“The 35th anniversary of the Chernobyl tragedy is a reminder of how state-sponsored disinformation, as propagated by the totalitarian Soviet regime, led to the greatest man-made disaster in human history,” Ukraine’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

FILE PHOTO: Children's beds are seen in a kindergarten near the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in the abandoned city of Pripyat

FILE PHOTO: Children's beds are seen in a kindergarten near the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in the abandoned city of Pripyat

Children’s beds are seen in a kindergarten near the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in the abandoned city of Pripyat, Ukraine on April 12, 2021.

REUTERS/Gleb Garanich

Chernobyl Tour

Chernobyl Tour

Visitors take a photo of a monument of the Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin, in Chernobyl, Ukraine, on December 25, 2019.

STR/NurPhoto via Getty Images

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