Many questions were formed in the minds of many people across eastern Europe as radiation levels rose mysteriously across the continent. From country to country unusually high radiation levels were being read. Although the radiation levels were not yet harmful in most places, it was feared the levels would keep rising with the origin of the radiation still unknown. By studying wind and weather patterns scientists were able to pinpoint from where all of this radiation was coming. The place was the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. A nuclear meltdown had occurred.
This great disaster occurred on April 26, 1986 in the nuclear power plant at Chernobyl. Chernobyl is located 128 km northwest of Kiev that is in the Ukraine, part of the Soviet Union.
The cause of the disaster was a malfunction within the plant that caused the radioactive core to become exposed. This caused a particle meltdown that let off large amounts of radioactive material. Many of the details of the accident are still unknown. Some people believed the accident was caused because the operators were over confident in their decision making. Others said that there was a flaw in the design of the reactor and others blamed the accident on the safety systems. Further investigation showed that all three factors were involved.
The disaster at Chernobyl affected people all over the world and also affected various areas around the world due to the radiation leak. The effects of the accident were both local and worldwide. Wind carried the huge masses of radioactive particles all over the world. Europe was greatly affected by the disaster because bans had to be put on many foods which hurt the areas financially. Belarus, the country to the north of the accident suffered the worst.
Of all the radiation that fell, 70 percent of the radiation fell here and 23 percent of the country is contaminated. Even the United States received some radioactivity from the explosion. People all over the world came in contact with the hazardous radioactive particles.
"The first civilians to be hit by it were those right nearby, in neighboring cities, towns, and villages. Everything local from health to agriculture was effected by the radiation. Many people in the local areas were dangerously affected by the radiation. The food in local areas was banned and considered contaminated. The disaster will continue to affect the agricultural for years to come.
When the Soviet Union was approached by the rest of the world with their questions as to what happened at Chernobyl, they admitted there was a small problem with the power plant. The small problem was later revealed to be a huge disaster and the Soviet Union was just trying to cover it up.
Many people were affected by the disaster at Chernobyl. The accident caused 31 deaths. All but two of these deaths were the result of exposure to radiation. The other two occurred from the result of thermal burns and or falling debris.
Up to 200 people were hospitalized due to the radiation exposure. Due to the nature of radiation exposure many of the medical effects may not form until many years after the accident. These medical problems may include cancer, birth defects, and skin diseases. There is an estimate of 6500 people that may die from cancers caused by the radiation.
The first thing that had to be done was the burying of the reactor in a cement tomb and sealing off the area. Since the reactor was still giving of heat and would continue to do so, the tomb had to be equipped with a cooling system that could operate for decades. The main way that they clean the site is by continuously flushing the area with water. The water absorbs the radiation and it is then filtered to take out the radioactive particles. Also the structure around the reactor must be cleaned. The walls of the structures are covered with a radioactive material that must be cleaned off using special machines.
"This is the one place where you could understand how the world would be after a nuclear war," (Dr. Vladimir Chernousenko). Today the reactors number one and three are still in operation at Chernobyl. The plant is responsible for powering a huge area so needs to keep running. The area is still very contaminated.
Officials are planning to shut down the reactors in November of 1997. This will lead to the shutting down of the entire plant which is expected to be done by the year 2000 because the plant is not considered safe.
The Chernobyl nuclear disaster was one of the worst disasters of all time. Effects of the disaster are continuing to show as time passes and the amount of people still suffering is tremendous. The estimated recovery time for this disaster is up to 130 years. Future generations are sure to learn from this great disaster which occurred at Chernobyl.