The emergency at the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant is still called to be the largest man-caused catastrophe in the history of peaceful atom. Along with the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster that occurred in 2011, the Chornobyl tragedy received Level 7 according to the International Nuclear Event Scale. The events that took place on April 26, 1986, became a local catastrophe with global consequences.
What happened at the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant on April 26, 1986
For another scheduled and preventive repair on April 25, 1986, it was planned to stop the fourth unit of the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant. An extra system of emergency energy supply had to be tested.
In 24 hours before the incident, the capacity of the reactor was reduced and the emergency system of cooling of the reactor was turned off.
However, about 01:23:28 a.m., on April 25, the pushing of the button of the maximal emergency protection system was observed: after the beginning of the trial, the reaction did not stabilize and the capacity of the reactor only grew on. The emergency protection system did not work and the situation got out of hand. Two explosions occurred with a few seconds interval; the reactor was completely destroyed and the building of the energy unit and roof of the computer control room partially collapsed. Moreover, over 30 fire seats occurred: the major of them were extinguished in an hour; the fire was extinguished completely until 05:00 a.m., on April 26. However, later, a large fire occurred in the central hall of the fourth unit. It was smothered with the help of helicopters until May 10.
Who is to blame in the Chornobyl disaster?
The search for guilty started almost right away. Initially, the staff and management of the plant were found responsible; however, after another consideration, the issue of responsibility, the conclusion was changed in 1991. Thus, the emergency at the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant started due to the actions of the staff but it acquired inadequate catastrophic scales due to the unsatisfactory construction of the reactor.
The most probable reasons for the emergency are mistakes in the project and construction of the reactor.
The main factors: non-compliance of the reactor with safety norms, low quality of the exploitation regulation, the inefficiency of the regulatory regime and safety control, common lack of safety culture in nuclear issues.
Chornobyl disaster and its consequences
The most damage after the tragedy was caused not to Ukraine but to Belarus. The country got 70% of the radiation contamination from the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant. Besides, the contamination reached Norway, Finland, Sweden and Russia. Totally, over 200,000 cubic km received a dose of radiation.
Most common myths about Chornobyl
Every time we talk about the Chornobyl disaster, some people remember mutants, some people say that the scales of the tragedy were concealed intentionally other people say that it is impossible to live near the plant for another 1,000 years. However, the situation is quite another.
Myth 1: Animals-mutants
Earlier, the stories about five-paws and two-headed wolves in the Chornobyl forest were very popular; especially in the first years after the incident. The mutations really occurred; however, insignificant; however, any of them was stable. In fact, the radiation influenced the birth rate falling and increase of mortality.
Nevertheless, currently, rich fauna is observed in the forest near the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant and it is studied not only by the Ukrainian scientists but also by their colleagues from France, the U.S., and other countries. Numerous trail cameras determined populations of Przewalski's horses, raccoon dogs, wolves, badgers, wild boars, roe deers, moose, even European bison, and bears. The absence of people in this area and the ban on hunting positively influence the life of animals.
Really, the radiation inflicted a visible strike on forests, especially pines that grew instead of the Red Forest – the forest that undertook the largest dose of the emission of the radioactive dust during the reactor’s explosion. The forest was pulled down by bulldozers; the trees were buried. Currently, it restores in a natural way but the irregularities of the sprouts are observed.
Unfortunately, the recent fires inflicted a major strike on the Chornobyl zone.
Myth 2: Horrible genetic consequences of Chornobyl tragedy for human
During six years of detailed studies, world science did not found genetic defects of children after the radiation exposition of their parents. The conclusion was confirmed after observation of victims and their generation in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. No surpass of genetic deviations was observed toward the average data.
20 years after the Chornobyl disaster, in 2007, the International Commission on Radiological Protection reduced the rate of hypothetical risks almost 10 times.
Myth 3: Authorities intentionally concealed the gravity of the situation
The main problem was in the absence of a reliable and independent system of control over the radiation situation that would cover vast territories outside the power plant. It was impossible to receive information in real-time toward the radiation background in vast territories, where the radioactive fallout occurred.
Definitely, the authorities concealed complete information. However, they could not estimate the scale of the catastrophe in full.
This issue gave an impetus to the development of the specialized system and currently, the observation zones exist around all nuclear power plants; the automated control system of radiation situation was created. They allow estimating the situation around nuclear and radiation risky enterprises not only by authorities but by anyone wishing.
Chornobyl disaster in numbers
Two days, the world knew nothing about the explosion.
30 employees of the nuclear power plant died as a result of the explosion or acute radiation injury during a few months.
350,000 people were evacuated from the explosion zone.
600,000 people became the first responders to the disaster – they fight the fire and cleared away rubbles.
4,700 cubic km became polluted due to the radioactive fallout and strong emission.
The fourth unit of the power plant worked for two years and it became the ‘youngest’ and modernized unit among others.
1:36 a.m. – is a time of event horizon; it was impossible to stop the reactor.
Tourism in Chornobyl
The majority of places in the exclusion zone are in a normal situation and relatively safe for people – at least, it possible to stay there for the restrictive amount of time but it is impossible to live there. However, people settled and started to work the land in some areas.
First tourists appealed in the exclusion zone in the mid-90s. Their number constantly grows. The route of the visit is agreed and confirmed beforehand; it is impossible to deviate from it. All tourists pass dosimetric control before departure from the zone. Shoes, clothes, and personal belongings that did not pass the control should be cleaned. If the contamination level is too high, they are confiscated.