The Chernobyl disaster: Making of the nuclear worst disaster in history

Fareeha Arshad
Photo byPhoto by JEFF VRBA on Unsplash

On April 26, 1986, the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine exploded, causing what many consider the worst nuclear disaster the world has ever seen. The disaster still leaves many unanswered questions, especially regarding the long-term health impacts of the massive radiation leak on those exposed.

The Chernobyl plant had four reactors designed and built during the 1970s and 1980s. It used four Soviet-designed RBMK-1000 nuclear reactors — a design that's now universally recognized as inherently flawed. RBMK reactors were of a pressure tube design that used an enriched U-235 uranium dioxide fuel to heat water, creating steam that drives the reactors' turbines and generates electricity. However, the RBMK-1000 used graphite to moderate the core's reactivity, creating a positive-void coefficient that caused a dangerous feedback loop.

Twenty-eight workers at Chernobyl died in the first four months following the accident, including some heroic workers who knew they were exposing themselves to deadly radiation levels to secure the facility from further radiation leaks. The prevailing winds at the time of the accident were from the south and east, so much of the radiation plume travelled northwest toward Belarus.

Despite the measures taken, the Chernobyl disaster remains a stark reminder of the risks involved in nuclear power. The disaster caused widespread environmental contamination and significant long-term health impacts on those exposed to the radiation. It also resulted in significant social and economic impacts, including the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people and the abandonment of the city of Pripyat. Today, the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone remains one of the most contaminated areas in the world.

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I am a scientist by profession and a historian by passion. I mostly write about history and science.

Texas State

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