Even on its own, the meltdown at Chernobyl in April of 1986 is one of the worst man-made disasters in history. Hundreds of thousands of people were affected by this disaster — some relocated, some faced severe health effects and some even died. While these are obvious catastrophes, many forget or are ignorant of the other adverse effects on this already quivering nation.
The immediate aftermath of the Chernobyl meltdown consisted of the Soviet government trying to play off the ordeal as “completely under control.” A month after the incident, they stated, “The situation, as specialists say, is a difficult one, but it is completely controllable. That’s the most important thing.” While the teams were doing their best to keep everything under control, statements like these downplayed the severity of the meltdown. Soviet media also believed that the United States was wrongly portraying Chernobyl as an indicator of things to come from the USSR, and causing anti-Soviet sentiment around the world. It was not until monitors in Sweden picked up large amounts of radioactivity, did the world truly understand what was happening at Chernobyl, and the nearby town of Pripyat. On July 17 (almost three months later), a full scale article in the Komsomolskaya Pravda detailing exactly what kind of risks were involved in the explosion (types of radioactive elements, cancer threats, etc.) was finally published to the Russian public.
Economically, Chernobyl was another disaster entirely. Outlined in this New York Times article, there were serious losses both in the labor force and in trade. Tourism in the region was hit, as no one wanted to travel to the once beautiful town of Pripyat (and the entire area). Warnings over the edibility of local produce put many farmers out of business. Many pregnant women chose to have abortions, rather than risk having a deformed child. The loss of power from the Chernobyl plant also put strains on factories in the region, who resorted to conserving power by forcing days off work for some. Alternative housing and water supplies for those affected also cost the country millions of dollars. In terms of damage, the explosion blasted $2.7 billion out of Soviet pockets.
The largely detrimental consequences of the Chernobyl meltdown proved to be quite costly (literally), and while it did not directly cause the fall of the Soviet Union, it certainly did not help the Soviet image. Since, however, the disaster has brought about great change for nuclear programs. Twenty-five years after, then General Secretary of the Communist Committee Mikhail Gorbachev, has stated that many lessons are to be learned from what happened that early April morning.
And currently in the news, a video has gone viral online featuring a drone taking some exclusive footage of modern-day Chernobyl and Pripyat: