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Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster
April 26th, 1986 the World’s worst nuclear power disaster occurred at Chernobyl in the former USSR (now Ukraine). The Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant located 60 miles north of Kiev, near the Belarus border, had 4 reactors and while carrying out an experiment at number 4, numerous safety procedures were disregarded. At 1:23am after an uncontrollable reactor power surge, the core was blown apart by a massive explosion releasing its deadly radioactive contents high into the air.
The Chernobyl accident killed more than 30 people immediately, and as a result of the high radiation levels in the surrounding area, 350,400 people had to be permanently evacuated. Over eight million people continue to live in Chernobyl-contaminated areas of Belarus, Ukraine and Russia, many of them are children.
It emerged that design flaws had led to the power surge, causing massive explosions which blew the top off the reactor. The contamination spread across neighbouring Belarus, Western-Russia, into Europe and around the World. In north Wales, sheep on hundreds of farms still have to be tested for radiation before their meat can be eaten. A concrete sarcophagus was hastily built to cover the damaged reactor, but it is weakening over time. Chernobyl continued to produce electricity until international pressure forced its closure in 2000.
The most comprehensive study ever made, on the impacts of the Chernobyl disaster concludes that based on available records, some 985,000 people died, mainly of cancer, as a result of the Chernobyl tragedy. The study projects that many more deaths will follow.
The major releases of radioactive poisons following the explosion of Unit 4 only ended when the fire at the reactor was brought under control in mid-May, weeks after the initial explosion. Hundreds of millions of curies were emitted, a quantity of radiation hundreds of times larger than the fallout from the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The most extensive fall-out occurred in regions closest to the plant, in the Ukraine, Belarus and Russia.
However, there was fallout all over the world as the winds kept changing direction so the radioactive emissions covered an enormous territory. The radioactive poisons sent billowing from the plant into the air included Cesium-137, Plutonium-239/240, Iodine-131 and Strontium-90.
Even areas of North America were contaminated from the first, most powerful explosion, which lifted a cloud of radionuclides to a height of more than 10 km above the earth.
Genetic impact records show an increase in “chromosomal aberrations” wherever there was fallout. This will continue through the children of irradiated parents for as many as seven generations. Therefore, the genetic consequences of the Chernobyl catastrophe will impact hundreds of millions of people ultimately.
Chernobyl remains the world’s worst civil nuclear disaster. An official exclusion zone around the plant remains in place, extending for 30 kilometres (18 miles). It is one of the most radioactive places on Earth.
A few statistics on Populations particularly exposed to radiation by Chernobyl:
- Clean-up workers (liquidators): 830,000
- Evacuees from the 30 km zone and other highly contaminated zones: 350,400
- The population of the heavily irradiated zones in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine: 8,300,000 (8.3 Million)
- European population in zones with minor exposure to radiation: 600.000.000 (600Million)