It’s a little hard after all this time for the average person (like me) to really understand the magnitude of the disaster that was the 1986 Chernobyl Reactor #4 meltdown. Although the Russians themselves are pretty tight-lipped about the whole thing, it is roughly estimated that somewhere above 300,000 workers ( called “liquidators,” ironically) were cycled through the clean-up process between 1986 and 1989, although as many as 500,000 might have been involved. At least 40 died immediately or only shortly thereafter, and of the rest . . . well, the stories aren’t pleasant. One worker from a team of around 30 states that he and four others are the only ones alive today, all others having succumbed to cancers of various sorts. What the ultimate death toll was (or will be) is unknown, but it may have resulted in as many as a million premature deaths worldwide.
So how bad was it? Sixty minutes exposure to 400REM is generally considered a lethal dose by international standards. In most of the disaster area, 20,000REM was registered, and near the core it was closer to 30,000REM. At that exposure, you’re a dead man in 48 seconds. Only about one to three percent of the workers were provided with dosimeters, so safe working time was largely guesswork. Workers as depicted in this latest kit from ICM were typically given nine minutes to work before they had to quit – most being told to grab one shovelful of debris and run. Radiation suits and tools had to be disposed off immediately thereafter as they were already too radioactive to re-use.
ICM continues their historic depiction of this disaster with the latest in their series, Chernobyl #3. Unlike the previous releases, this one does not include a vehicle, but instead documents five of these incredibly brave “liquidators” clearing debris from the roof of Reactor #4. Four of these are shovel handlers, with one reviewing a Geiger counter while they work. All are wearing lead-lined aprons with goggles and two different kinds of face masks. According to what I’ve read, they would also have been issued with lead shoe pads and (the smart ones) used additional pads in the groin area although, obviously, none of this will be visible. Otherwise, they appear to be wearing standard-issue Russian infantry uniforms from the period. Bits of rubble are also supplied, although for the metal beams, at least, they’re not all that “rubbly” looking. However, a bit of mutilating makes them much more acceptable. Like the previous set, the larger two rubble chunks have rather obvious pin marks that really should be filled and sanded. Any respectable modeler should be able to add considerably to the rubble provided to make a more effective diorama using their own stock.
Assembly for all the figures is relatively straight-forward, due to the lack of equipment you’d find on most figures. The Geiger counter held by the one figure required a little fiddling to fit properly, and I went ahead and added the wiring for this one. The separate shovel heads are a bit delicate to fit and you need to take some care with those. Each figure comes with a separate rear lead shroud, and due to the nature of these it’s inevitable that you’ll have to do a bit of filling and sanding. Otherwise, there were no surprises.
Painting is also straight-forward, with a very limited pallet. These are not colorful figures, as befitting the situation. Placed on the fold-out background, you get a VERY dramatic scenario with a suitably grim look to it. I really like these backgrounds ICM has provided for this series, as they tell the story much more effectively than the models alone.
I can’t say enough about this series of dioramas from ICM. They tell a continuing story of one of the greatest disasters of the modern age, with no “spin” and with startling clarity. My admiration for ICM for their decision to release these is boundless, and the beautiful sculpting simply adds to my high regard. I can recommend this and the other kits in the series with no reservations. My hats off to ICM for providing this sample and to IPMS/USA for the chance to build and review it. Stay safe, everyone, and happy modeling!