The Chernobyl disaster: What happened and what the long-term impact was!

An accident at a nuclear power plant in Ukraine shocked the world, permanently transformed a region, and left many questions unanswered.

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COFFEEPERDAY.COM - On April 25 and 26, 1986, the worst nuclear accident in history occurred in what is now northern Ukraine when a reactor at a nuclear power plant exploded and caught fire. Shrouded in secrecy, the incident became a pivotal moment in the Cold War and the history of nuclear power. More than 30 years later, scientists estimate the zone around the former factory will be uninhabitable for up to 20,000 years!

Begins with a breach of protocol by workers!

Duga, a Soviet over-the-horizon radar

On April 25, 1986, routine maintenance was scheduled for V.I. The fourth reactor is the Lenin Nuclear Power Plant, and workers plan to use the downtime to test whether the reactor can still cool if the plant loses power. However, during testing, workers violated safety protocols and electricity surged inside the factory. Despite the attempt to shut down the reactor completely, another surge of electricity caused an explosive chain reaction inside. Eventually, the nuclear nucleus itself is exposed, spewing radioactive material into the atmosphere.

Firefighters attempted to extinguish a series of blazes at the factory, and eventually, helicopters dumped sand and other materials in an attempt to extinguish the flames and contain the contamination. Despite the deaths of two people in the explosion, hospital workers and firefighters, and the danger of falls and fires, no one in the surrounding area - including the nearby town of Pripyat, which was built in the 1970s for homeworkers in the factory - was evacuated. up to about 36 hours after the disaster started.

Historical disaster!

Unsplash/Yves Alarie

At least 28 people were initially killed in the crash, while more than 100 were injured. The United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation has reported that more than 6,000 children and adolescents develop thyroid cancer after being exposed to radiation from the incident, although some experts have disputed these claims.

International researchers have estimated that in the end, about 4,000 people exposed to high levels of radiation could die from radiation-related cancer, while about 5,000 people exposed to low levels of radiation might suffer the same fate. But the full consequences of the accident, including its impact on mental health and even later generations, are still being debated and studied.

What's left of the reactor is now inside the massive steel containment structure that was used in late 2016. Containment and monitoring efforts are continuing and clean-up is expected to last until at least 2065.

How is Chernobyl impacted today?

Unsplash/Michał Lis

At the moment, the exclusion zone is very quiet, yet full of life. Although many trees have regrown, scientists have found evidence of increased rates of cataracts and albinism, and lower levels of beneficial bacteria, among some of the area's wildlife species in recent years. However, due to a lack of human activity around the dead power plant, the number of wildlife, from lynx to deer, has increased. In 2015, scientists estimated there were seven times more wolves in the exclusion zone than in a nearby nature reserve, thanks to the absence of humans.

The Chernobyl disaster had another effect: Economic and political casualties hastened the end of the Soviet Union and sparked a global anti-nuclear movement. The disaster is estimated to have cost an estimated $ 235 billion. What is now Belarus, 23 percent of its territory was contaminated by the accident, lost about a fifth of its agricultural land. At the height of its response efforts, in 1991 Belarus spent 22 percent of its total budget on Chernobyl.

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