accident in 1986 was the result of a flawed reactor design that was operated
with inadequately trained personnel and without proper regard for
– World Nuclear Association
nuclear power plant was one of many created in the former
in order to provide energy for its many cities.The actual city of
(1986 pop. 10,000 people) is located not far from
, the present-day capital of
, as well as many medium sized cities in the area.In all, over 2.4 million people were directly affected by radiation
exposure after the accident.
was a Soviet designed RMBK, a Russian acronym for Reactor Bolshoi Moschnosti
Kanalynyi “Channelized Large Power Reactor.”This type of reactor was used in over seventeen power plants throughout
, and was partially created to produce plutonium for ulterior uses (mainly for
the purpose of creating nuclear weapons).This
type of power plant also encompassed many flaws that have since been fixed.
Even still, the problems that faced
in the mid 1980s prove what could happen in the case of a nuclear accident.It is thus a prime example for the reasons nuclear power plants are
considered dangerous and even poisonous.
In the middle of a shutdown test that took place at
in the morning on
26 April, 1986
, there was an electrical surge and reactor number four responded in kind.It exploded, releasing radioactive poisons into the atmosphere.
The power surge was created by a huge flaw in the RBMK
reactor.The design allowed the
nuclear materials to overheat if any of the coolant water was lost.When the test was performed, the team cut down on the power which
resulted in a loss of water.As a
result, the uranium rods quickly overheated, caused too much steam, and sent the
1,000 metric ton reactor ceiling into the air.This put too much stress on the pressurized water tubes (used in light
water reactors such as the RBMK) causing all 1,600 of them to explode leaving a
gaping hole open for the radiation emitting from the reactor to leak out into
The test that was conducted was actually against the power
plant’s official policies; it was done by a small group that wanted to test
out the ability of the reactor to create electrical power without its source of
energy being connected.Without the
approval of the safety commission for the plant, the team that led the test
attempted to run the plant on low-power, ignoring many safety regulations.
Along with the fact that proper safety precautions were not
being followed, the RBMK reactor itself had other major flaws that allowed for
massive amounts of radiation to escape.Unlike
the Three Mile Island accident in 1979, during which the radiation was contained
within the facility,
was not constructed to withstand such a large blast of radiation.
The building at
Three Mile Island
was constructed with a final layer of concrete on the outside specifically put
there to contain radiation.The RBMK
facility did not have this containment layer to protect the environment from
Even so, most officials maintain that even with the extra
layer, the amount of radiation released after the accident was enough to have
penetrated and contaminated the area surrounding the power plant.
The immediate results of the explosion, which killed 31
people immediately from heat and radiation poisoning, spread across
.The explosion released radioactive materials in the form of cesium-137
and strontium-90, both of which have about 30 year half lives.Radioactive poisons had been released into a radius larger than 100
miles, but, furthermore, they became airborne and are known to have affected
, and even
“Patients who came into that hospital were
more radioactive when they left than when they came in…”
- Nowhere to Hide: a Look at
No one actually knew about the accident until three days
published a report stating that it had found increased radiation coming out of
.In fact, the
was doing all it could to cover up what had happened and assess the damage
before the world could find out.
In the midst of the cold war, the
did not want to undermine any credibility it had been assuming.A disaster of such massive proportions would cause (and did cause)
international and national embarrassment.Indeed,
such measures were taken to cover up the incident that medical treatment and
clean up was delayed in order to make the public think that nothing was wrong.
Child born with birth defects because of radiation resulting
The results of radioactive poisoning, however, were too
large to ignore.
quickly determined that extremely high levels of radiation were coming from
somewhere in the
For three days the
had kept the incident completely under wraps, trying to do anything it could to
contain the disaster and make it seem things were okay.When the Swedish report was published, however, it was impossible to
continue covering up the facts of the matter.
Four hundred thousand people were evacuated and resettled
to another place following the disaster, but millions of others continued to
live in contaminated areas.The r
adioactive results were staggering.People
exposed to the immediate radioactive clouds often died within a week from
radiation poisoning.People living
farther away from the incident suffered immediately from thyroid cancer.Since the accident birth defects have gone up 22%; the live birth rate
has decreased immensely.
Almost twenty years have passed since the
accident, which truly
was an eye-opener for the world.After
the incident, the IAEA forced operating plants to change their safety standards.
All facilities are now required to have backup systems in
case of a meltdown. This means that if one system fails another one will
kick in and take over the job of cooling and moderating the
Containment structures are being built stronger and those
that existed before the Chernobyl incident are being reinforced to keep in
radiation in the case of an explosion. While an incident on the same scale
as Chernobyl would not be completely contained even with these reinforced walls,
any smaller incidents will be. Furthermore, the walls would contain most
of the results of an accident on such a large scale. The effects would not
be as big or as problematic and will cover a much smaller area.
Nonetheless, the possibility for nuclear meltdown and
radiation poisoning still exists. As mentioned in the safety section of
the "Nuclear Reactor Specific"
page, human error or malicious intent can still cause an accident to occur.