26 April 1986- The Number 4 reactor in the Chernobyl power plant in Ukraine explodes after a power surge, releasing tons (figuratively, not literally) of radiative dust and radiation into the air.  38 people were killed as a result of the explosion, and an estimated 100,000 more were killed or suffered sever health degeneration in the years following the accident as a direct result of the released radiation.  More than 40,000 people were evacuated from Pripyiat, a nearby town, which led to haunting images, like this abandoned amusement park (Siegelbaum):

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Here you can watch a video tour of the city, showing the radiation levels still present throughout the city, including the two above photos (video was published in 2012).

Despite the inherent perceived danger of being near the Chernobyl plant, the radiation has begun to fade, and some areas are now safe to live in again.  A new reactor housing is being built and is scheduled to be moved into place to cover the Number 4 reactor and the hastily build covering from 1986.  There are plans to reopen thousands of residences in hundreds of villages within the next decade or so, and in 2011 the radiation levels were declared low enough to make Chernobyl a tourist attraction (“Chernobyl Accident 1986”).


Works Cited:

“Chernobyl Accident 1986.” World Nuclear Organization, Dec. 2014. Web. 10 Dec. 2014.

Source Essay “Meltdown in Chernobyl: The Chernobyl Nuclear Accident” by Lewis Siegelbaum from Seventeen Moments in Soviet History. URL:

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