One of the most tragic man made disasters that has ever occurred happened on April 26th 1986 in Chernobyl. I most likely do not even have to go into further detail for you to know what I’m writing about. Yes, the nuclear meltdown in Chernobyl Ukraine is the instance that is being referred to.
Early in the morning of April 26th a chain reaction of events occurred that led to the worst nuclear disaster in human history. A power surge caused the nuclear rods to rupture which then consequently created a steam explosion. This explosion then formed into a huge fireball that took off the roof of the building allowing all the radioactive material and gas to escape into the open air. This toxic air then spread across most of Western Europe and even reached Ireland. However most of the damage remained in Ukraine, Belarus, and Scandinavia. The city completely contaminated by the irradiation was the city of Pripyat. Here the iconic landmark of the of the Chernobyl explosion can be found, the Pripyat Ferris Wheel.
There were many immediate consequences to the Chernobyl explosion. The immediate effects included the evacuation of the town of Pripyat. In one first hand account a victim in the Chernobyl meltdown Nadezhda Petrovna Vygovskaya talked about the struggles following the disaster. In his account he talks about the immense fear of not knowing what would happen next or the condition of their health. With concerns about his children going to school he felt they were isolated and look at differently. When trying to seat the child the other students and parents would say things like “Are you crazy, They are contaminated.” Over all the disaster caused approximately 100,000 deaths.
Throughout this whole disaster the Soviet Government was silent. In fact it took the Swedish government to make an announcement about the radiation leakage across Europe. Gorbachev remained silent and after it was brought to the worlds attention he only made slight additions to what was said. In regards to the people that were affected by the tragedy Gorbachev’s regime sent aid to evacuate them from the area. They also had to spend nearly a billion rubles in replacing the housing lost due to the contaminating irradiation. Overall the Chernobyl meltdown in reactor 4 caused over 100,000 deaths and one billion rubles. Chernobyl was a lesson to the world to be careful with nuclear reactors and since then stricter protocols have been placed around the world to ensure that no disaster of this magnitude ever happens again.
Nice overview of what exactly happened at Chernobyl without getting too technical. I didn’t realize the radiation got as far as Ireland, but I’m not surprised.
Nice post on the Chernobyl incident. I think its important to note that since the Soviet government remained silent, this meant the rest of the world didn’t find out about it until it was too late. Hindsight being what it is, many countries could have helped contain the radiation, but since the USSR didn’t ask, nothing was done to stop the harmful effects of radiation.
The most curious facet of this event is how low key the whole thing looks when examining history. Many people are familiar with large natural disaster or devastating events such as the bombing of Japan at the end of World War II. Considering nuclear power and its uses continue to be a hotly debated issue to this day, I find it interesting that Chernobyl is not covered in more depth and I am sure most Americans know very little about it if they have even heard of it at all.
The soviet union was probably the best nation in history at covering things up. Its no surprise that they attempted to keep this quiet. They might have not succeeded 100% but as the comment above says, many specifics of this accident will most likely never be known.
On the contrary, once the fallout registered with media and scientists outside the country, the accident became incredibly public. And it turned the government’s “glasnost'” campaign in a much more frank direction. Adam, the research you did for this is really solid. The “voices from Chernobyl” story on NPR is based on a collection of oral histories by the same title. It’s an amazing, devastating book: http://www.amazon.com/Voices-Chernobyl-History-Nuclear-Disaster/dp/0312425848
Great post. Vygovskaya’s testimony was particularly interesting. You said that Chernobyl sent a warning about nuclear power, and, while this gave a wake up call to those who, like the Soviets, didn’t exactly take every precaution, it’s a shame that it turned the world off from nuclear power. It’s extremely efficient.
The Chernobyl disaster was part human error, part mechanical failure. However, given those facts, it surprises me that Japan was allowed to build nuclear power plants and not be adequately prepared for a tsunami, which caused the Fukushima disaster. Those who forget their past are doomed to repeat it, and it seems Japan forgot about Chernobyl when planning their plant.
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