As Nuclear power once again finds itself in the headlines it brings back many memories of the disasters that have occurred in the past. The most well known nuclear disaster to take place happened on April 26 1986 in an obscure city in North Central Ukraine called Chernobyl, which at the time was part of the Soviet Union. At 01:23:45 am, reactor number 4 exploded during tests to see how long power would still be supplied by the spinning turbines following a loss of the main power supply.
This along with further explosions sent tons of radioactive fallout into the atmosphere (30 to 40 times the fallout of the Hiroshima atomic bombing). The radioactive material drifted over large parts of the planet, but was kept silent by the soviet authorities and was only discovered by the rest of the world when Sweden noticed abnormal radiation levels at one of their nuclear facilities. Due to the wind direction 70% of the radioactive material blew north over Belarus, which has suffered terribly with over 25% of their forests and arable land deeply poisoned for centuries to come. But there was a terrible human price paid, and apart from the 31 lives that were lost during or shortly after the accident, hundreds of thousands of people were poisoned and forced to abandon their homes (it’s estimated that at present 3 million people are still living within contaminated areas.)
Kofi Annan, The secretary General of the United Nations (1996 – 2006) made the following statement, "At least three million children in Belarus, Ukraine and the Russian Federation require physical treatment (due to the Chernobyl accident). Not until 2016, at the earliest, will we know the full number of those likely to develop serious medical conditions."
Today Chernobyl is enclosed in a large concrete shelter, to prevent the release of further radioactive material which remains within (over 200 tonnes.) Some major work has recently taken place on the shelter which was quickly erected and wasn’t durable. It’s expected that by the end of 2011 a new “safe” confinement structure will be completed.
The world has learned from the Chernobyl disaster
In the years following the disaster there has been a great focus on improving safety within nuclear plants to ensure a disaster like this never occurs again.
The soviet designed RMBK reactors have been modified to overcome their deficiencies, making them safer and more efficient. The disaster also allowed scientists to study radiation pollution, and devise the most effective ways to clean-up following a nuclear disaster.
It was reported in 2005 that over 7 million people are receiving or are eligible for benefits as Chernobyl victims.
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