The nuclear explosion at Chernobyl on April 26, 1986 caused more damage to the Soviet Union than just sending a deadly amount of radiation into the sky and surrounding areas. The nuclear consequences were great, but the accident produced many other results in addition to physical damage.
The Soviet economy was already struggling and the Chernobyl accident created more economic distress. The cost of clean up and rehabilitation for the evacuees added up to billions of rubles. Aside from cleaning up after the disaster, the money lost on productive and non-productive assets was incredible. Agriculture was also severely damaged and created a loss of income for the local people.
This added stress on the economy also fueled discontentment with the central government, especially in the Ukraine and Belorussia. They already felt victimized by the famine in the 1930’s after the collectivization of farming, and the seemingly slow move to help the people directly impacted by Chernobyl did not brighten their opinion of the government.
The physical damages of Chernobyl were devastating and still cause health and environmental issues today. The more abstract consequences of the disaster were just as great. It was an emergency situation that the Soviet government, as it stood, could not handle. This lack of control brought the already questioned government under criticism and strict scrutiny and fueled the fire that became the end of the Soviet Union.