Chernobyl – 25 Years Ago

The Chernobyl disaster occurred 25 years ago today.

On 26 April 1986, at 01:23 (UTC+3), reactor four suffered a catastrophic power increase, leading to explosions in its core. This dispersed large quantities of radioactive fuel and core materials into the atmosphere[13]:73 and ignited the combustible graphite moderator. The burning graphite moderator increased the emission of radioactive particles, carried by the smoke, as the reactor had not been encased by any kind of hard containment vessel. The accident occurred during an experiment scheduled to test a potential safety emergency core cooling feature, which took place during the normal shutdown procedure.

After years of international pressure, independent Ukraine finally shut down the Chernobyl Atomic Power Station for good in December 2000. The sarcophagus remains in place, well beyond its initial lifespan, although work on a replacement has finally started.

Disputes rage on the death toll with some estimates backed by UN committees saying only a few dozen fatalities could be directly attributed to Chernobyl but some environmentalists say the figure is in the tens of thousands.

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5 Responses to Chernobyl – 25 Years Ago

  1. business says:

    ..Japan can learn from Chernobyl nuclear reactor disaster..Sunday April 24 2011..By David Templeton Pittsburgh Post-Gazette……..Bob Donaldson Post-Gazette….Franciscan University of Steubenville physics professor Alexander Sich did extensive research at the site of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor disaster……. ….Alexander Sichs long-standing goal has been to dispel myths surrounding the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident…Japans Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident in March revived many of those myths including claims the Soviet Union ended the Chernobyl meltdown in Ukraine by burying exposed nuclear fuel under concrete and other materials…Mister Sich knows firsthand that didnt happen…The associate professor of physics at Franciscan University in Steubenville Ohio spent 18 months inside the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone — a circle with an 18.8-mile radius surrounding the four-reactor-unit power plant including damaged Reactor No.

  2. huffygirl says:

    Makes me wonder why anyone still thinks nuclear power is still a good idea. How many times do we need to learn this lesson? Not sure how true this is – at the time of the disaster, I read that the pilot who flew over the reactor died just a short time later of radiation illness. Guess I could Google this to find out if it’s true!

    • John Erickson says:

      Last I had heard, the Soviet authorities put the death toll, officially, at 34 if I remember correctly. Then again, that’s Soviet propaganda – most Western authorities put it in the hundreds. A good indicator of the danger to the helicopter crew, is to watch the films. You’ll see lines on the film that look like “noise”, like you’d see on an old black-and-white movie. The lines are actually over-exposure of the film due to the radiation. The military troops that shoveled debris off the roof prior to building the “sarcophagus” were only allowed 3 minutes on the roof.
      If you want to see a “pop culture” but scientifically accurate depiction of radiation sickness, rent the movie “K-19: The Widow Maker” with Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson. It’s about a Soviet sub whose reactor loses cooling, and the sub crew have to go into the reactor chamber to do welding, without protective gear which the shipyard didn’t have. Some of it is pretty gruesome, but it is a highly accurate display – and a VERY good drama to boot. You should be able to keep up with the technical bits in the movie – the director is Kathryn Bigelow, who has done several military-themed movies without getting into too much “techno-babble”.

  3. Thanks for the history lesson Prof. Techy! Such a terrible event…

  4. John Erickson says:

    Two interesting side notes. The presence of radiation outside Ukraine, then part of the USSR, was found at a Swedish nuclear plant. Workers have to pass through a radiation detector when leaving, to be sure they are not contaminated. The workers also pass through them going in, but don’t pay attention to the readings. One of the staff showing up to work set the detector off going in, and after a bit of confusion, the staff finally figured out the radiation came from outside. They then checked with both weather and radiation detector sites across Europe to backtrack the radiation to Chernobyl.
    Also, in the wake of the departure of humans, there is a renaissance of animal life around the town of Pripyat. Not only are indigenous animals expanding, but there are animals that hadn’t been in the area for decades re-appearing, as well as packs of former domestic animals (dogs and cats) still alive and apparently well. (Studies have only been done without contact, so any potential internal damage can’t be seen.) Nature has remained remarkably resilient in the face of the radiation, even though the area is still uninhabitable for humans.

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