this day in 1986, a reactor exploded at the Chernobyl nuclear power
station in Ukraine, creating the world’s worst nuclear disaster.
Radioactive smoke was let into the atmosphere which spread across the
Soviet Union and Europe. Thirty-one members of staff and emergency workers died
directly due to the accident, but many others died from diseases - often cancer - brought on by exposure to radiation. Hundreds of thousands of people
eventually had to be evacuated and resettled due to contamination of
areas of Belarus, Russia and Ukraine. The disaster raised questions of
the safety of nuclear power and encouraged the Soviet government to
become more open. Only two nuclear accidents have been classified as
level seven on the International Nuclear Event Scale - Chernobyl and the
Fukushima Daiichi disaster of 2011.
“For the first time ever, we have confronted in reality the sinister power of uncontrolled nuclear energy.” - Mikhail Gorbachev
Tomorrow marks the 29th anniversary of the world’s worst nuclear accident, which took place on April 26 of 1986 in Chernobyl, Ukraine. A combination of mechanical faults and human error led to a massive explosion that blew the lid off reactor no.4 of the Chernobyl NPP following a safety test. The graphite and fuel within lay exposed and burning for weeks while crews scrambled to contain fallout that was scattered throughout Europe. Upwards of 600,000 “Liquidators” have toiled to confine and monitor the intense radiaton since that time, which has had a toll on human life that is difficult to assess.
Every year at this time I mark the occasion by running a stream of documentaries on the subject, though because of my situation and scheduling the broadcast may be a little more impromptu this time. Stay tuned for a link and exact time, and please tune in to learn more about this grim but important part of our history.
Hello! While your post was largely an average, brief overview (as many are - and for very convenient reading!) there was a slight piece of misinformation that I’d really like to address. It’s very common and appears on most research anyway, but is a longstanding slight misconception.
While there were nineteen deaths following beyond that thirty (composing of on-sight staff and disaster relief workers at the scene post-failure), through almost any research, they were never directly tied to the incident. This is the Soviet Union we’re talking about, I will allow that, and information is… mottled. It’s hard to find reliable sources on every documented case simply because not every case was reliably documented. Still, there has yet to be a concrete link between many others dying as a direct result of this. Check out all the Thyroid Cancer cases and their background, it’s really interesting, but still unreliable as evidence, given that it’s safe to assume at least a portion of them were caused by the screening process or a false diagnosis.
Resettling was necessary, but recently Belorussians have been resettled in one of the former hazard areas and they’re working on continuing this well into the future and reclaiming their land. Scientists have done a lot of observation and research on Pripyat (I recommend watching this video to see how nature has reclaimed it!) and Chernobyl itself. A lot of what they’ve found is really interesting, as well, especially some of the semi-old findings on birds and fungus in the area.
Which brings us right into how this disaster affected Europe. “It is estimated that all of the xenon gas, about half of the iodine and caesium, and at least 5% of the remaining radioactive material in the Chernobyl 4 reactor core (which had 192 tonnes of fuel) was released in the accident. Most of the released material was deposited close by as dust and debris, but the lighter material was carried by wind over Ukraine, Belarus, Russia and to some extent over Scandinavia and Europe.” (Iodine and caesium have a half life of about eight-ten days, after eighty-ninety days there is no longer a radioactive threat contained within the composite.) 137Cs, now that is something that has a thirty year lifespan, amplified further by the amount of it. (1 gram of 137Cs = 3.214 terabecquerels of radiation A becquerel is the equivalent radiation of one neutron decaying per second.) But. It also has a biological half life of seventy days, so the immediate threat from that became more quickly restricted to the direct hazard areas within Chornobyl.
Even now, some of the debris around the reactor are solids from the incident (if anyone is interested in the solidifying process of certain radioactive material, throw an ask my way), but most of them have been appropriately collected and disposed of, thankfully. The “lighter material” (gaseous and inactive fluids, mainly) was also caught in plant life, roof shingles, noxious smog, rain, so on and so forth. The real percentage of it that was on breathing level outside of the immediate hazard zones was quite small and largely inconspicuous. No reports of acidic rain, ashen clouds, or cancers that can be attributed to the incident in the rest of Europe have turned up in my research. I wouldn’t call that “radioactive smoke,” either, considering most of the radioactivity stayed behind in chunks and denser particles. There were still concerns and complications, but radioactivity works like that; ground zero and no man’s land are always the most aggressively contaminated, but beyond those areas the activity tends to gradually mellow.
But what does it all mean?! Well, friend, it means the tiniest bit of misinformation is still misinformation and builds into common misconceptions, which can be harnessed for worsening shock statements. Something so common and trivial hardly irks me, but providing further information on this disaster and following it is something I think matters. Especially with how hard it can be to get reliable sources.
Citations: http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/Safety-and-Security/Safety-of-Plants/Chernobyl-Accident/ (And further articles on nuclear safety, Fukushima and other reactors, and the layout of Reactor Four) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caesium-137 http://chnpp.gov.ua/ru/ (You can find the site in English here) http://www.armchairgeneral.com/forums/showthread.php?t=85372 http://www.iflscience.com/plants-and-animals/birds-adapting-chernobyls-radiation http://www.iflscience.com/environment/dead-trees-and-fallen-leaves-near-chernobyl-aren%E2%80%99t-decaying http://forum.kerbalspaceprogram.com/threads/93470-Getting-Energy-from-Chernobyl/page2 http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/357486.Voices_from_Chernobyl Contact me for further research recommendations and information if desired!
Thanks much. -Матьё, Дзень чарнобыльскай трагедыі
Today, 26 of April,
was a catastrophic nuclear accident that occurred in 1986 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine (that time USSR).
The accident raised concerns about nuclear power worldwide and slowed or reversed the expansion of nuclear power stations.Also the accident raised concerns about the safety of the Soviet nuclear power industry, slowing its expansion for a number of years and forcing the Soviet government to become less secretive about its procedures
But still,4 or more days people knew anything about the real danger, they were told all is under control, all is ok.
I can write a lot about this, but this is the tragedy for my country, this is the pain for my nation and this ‘black disease’ was spread worldwide.
I will never understand the indifference of the goverment and never forget the first people, who were liqidators and save lives of future generations.
The Chernobyl disaster (Ukrainian: Чорнобильська катастрофа, Chornobylska Katastrofa – Chornobyl Catastrophe; also referred to as Chernobyl or the Chornobyl accident) was a catastrophic nuclear accident that occurred on 26 April 1986 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine (then officially the Ukrainian SSR), which was under the direct jurisdiction of the central authorities of the Soviet Union. An explosion and fire released large quantities of radioactive particles into the atmosphere, which spread over much of the western USSR and Europe.
The Chernobyl disaster was the worst nuclear power plant accident in history in terms of cost and casualties. It is one of only two classified as a level 7 event (the maximum classification) on the International Nuclear Event Scale, the other being the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in 2011. The battle to contain the contamination and avert a greater catastrophe ultimately involved over 500,000 workers and cost an estimated 18 billion rubles. During the accident itself, 31 people died, and long-term effects such as cancers are still being investigated.
29 years ago today the world experienced the worst nuclear disaster ever, the Chernobyl disaster. Anybody that knows me knows that Chernobyl and Pripyat are two things that fascinate me very much.
Let’s take a look back through Chernobyl.
The Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, officially known as the V. I. Lenin Nuclear Power Station during the Soviet era, began construction in 1970 at a remote region near Ukraine’s swamp-filled northern border, 15 kilometres north-west of the small town of Chernobyl.
3 kilometers away, construction was underway of Pripyat, the city that would support the plants 50,000 workers.
Unit 1 was commissioned on the 26th of November 1977, following months of tests. Three more reactors followed: Unit 2 in 1978, Unit 3 in 1981, and Unit 4 in 1983.
The completed turbine hall. Steam from the condensator enters these steam turbines, which turn and generate electricity. Having passed through the turbogenerator, the steam is condensed back into water and fed back to the pumps, where it begins its cycle again.
Nuclear reactors have to be constantly fed with a huge volume of water by pumps. In the event that there’s ever a problem with the electricity supply, the pumps would stop, so enormous diesel engines like this one were there as a backup. Unfortunately, these engines took almost a minute to reach capacity, and couldn’t be relied upon by themselves.
In the early morning of April 26th 1986, a team of men at the power station were testing a safety feature of the RBMK design that allowed to system to power the pumps by itself for that vital minute before the diesel engines took over. This was done by taking electricity generated by the residual steam in the turbines to power the pumps. Leonid Toptunov, one of the control room operators, made a mistake when switching from manual to automatic control of the control rods, causing them to descend much further into the core than intended. This resulted in an almost total shutdown of the reactor. Safety procedures required that the operators fully shutdown the reactor, as the RBMK became unstable at very low power. Unfortunately for the whole world, the Deputy Chief Engineer in charge of the test - Anatoly Dyatlov - insisted that they continue. The men struggled to bring the reactor up to power, and then commenced the test. Toptunov saw that the reactor readings were heading for danger, so he told the man seen here, senior engineer Alexander Akimov.
At precisely 01:23:40, Akimov pressed the emergency shutdown button. 18 seconds later, the reactor exploded.
This is the first photograph ever taken of the accident, and the only photo that survives from the morning of the accident. Igor Kostin was a photographer from Kiev who became world famous for his images of the the clean-up operation. The image is very noisy because the radiation was destroying the film in his camera. Of all the shots he took on that flight, this is the only one that wasn’t ruined.
The plant’s own firemen immediately rushed into action. The explosion had started fires all over the site, which threatened to destroy the nearby Unit 3. These brave souls climbed onto the roof overlooking the destroyed reactor and fought fires for hours as the radiation destroyed their bodies.
The smoke is a mixture of incredibly radioactive particles venting into the atmosphere. This cloud would spread radioactivity across Europe.
On the morning of the 27th, as the radiation levels in Pripyat peaked, Legasov remarked that, “mothers could be seen pushing prams and children were playing in the street – just like any other Sunday.” The order to evacuate was finally given at 11am on April 27th, 34 hours after the accident. These two photos are from shortly after the evacuation.
Using suits with lead panels sewn into them, men dubbed ‘Bio-Robots’ ran up to the roof to shovel debris into the breach. Each man was only able to work for 40 seconds before their radiation dosage became too high. Only around 10% of the work on the roof was accomplished by actual machines - the rest being done by 5,000 men, according to Yuri Semiolenko, the Soviet official responsible for the decontamination of the plant.
The Bio-Robots’ sacrifice allowed work to begin on erecting an enormous enclosure - soon to become known as the Sarcophagus - to seal Unit 4 off from the world. One of the largest and most difficult civil engineering tasks in modern history, there had never been such an important building designed and built in such a short time, under such extreme conditions. It was to stand 170 metres long, 66 metres tall, and envelop the whole of block 4. The Sarcophagus needed the strength to withstand Ukrainian weather for an estimated 20 years - time to develop a more permanent solution - and contain the astronomical levels of radiation within
This is a view from inside the damaged turbine hall.
The Chernobyl zone had by now transformed into a huge clean-up operation, involving hundreds of thousands of people, who came to be called Liquidators.
This is a famous shot taken by Igor Kostin, of a Liquidator who has discovered a baby abandoned in a country home.
In all, more than 400,000m³ of concrete and 7,300 tons of steel were used in its construction, which lasted 206 days, concluding in late November 1986.
The catastrophic nuclear disaster the world had long feared finally happened in 1986 at the Chernobyl plant in Ukraine. Reactor number four exploded early one morning in April, sending a vast plume of radioactive fallout in the atmosphere. This would contaminate large areas of the western Soviet Union and Europe, with nuclear rain being recorded as far away as Ireland. The initial power excursion was followed by further chemical and has explosions, then fire. Unlike those in most western plants, the reactor building was not a reinforced containment vessel designed to limit the effects of just such an accident. It was therefore destroyed, allowing disastrous quantities of radioactive material to escape. Yet this was an accident that could have been avoided.
Ironically, the catalyst was an experiment carried out to test the reactors safety. Operators were worried that a power failure might result in the reactor core overheating, as vast quantities of cooling water were required and standby generators didn’t get the pumps back up to speed for over a minute. They therefore decided to test wether an emergency core-cooling procedure would work should such a situation arise. Had regulations been followed there would have been no problem, but safety features were disabled in order to complete the test. This decision proved fatal. After complex setup procedures were completed, the test commenced but within seconds the core went critical and a powerful explosion rocked the plant.
The aftermath was horrific, though Soviet authorities initially tried to conceal the scale of the disaster. The town of Pripyat was evacuated the following day and remains a deserted time capsule. The accident site was contained within a vast concrete sarcophagus at the centre of the 30km exclusion some around Chernobyl that is in force to this day.