April 26th 1986: Chernobyl nuclear disaster
On 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 - resulting from 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
30 years ago today