The Chernobyl disaster was a nuclear disaster which occurred on April 26, 1986 at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Pripyat, Ukraine. At that time, Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union. The station was situated 110 kilometres north of Kyiv.
The event was one of the worst accidents in the history of nuclear power. It was rated level 7, the most severe level, on the International Nuclear Event Scale. The only other accident with a level 7 rating is Fukushima. Because the RBMK reactors used at the plant had no containment building to keep the radiation in, radioactive fallout drifted over parts of the western Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, Scandinavia, the United Kingdom, and the eastern United States. Large areas of Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia were badly contaminated. About 60% of the radioactive fallout landed in Belarus. About 360,000 people needed to be moved to other places, where they could live after the accident. In addition, many people suffered from acute radiation poisoning and long-term illnesses such as thyroid cancer.
Cause of the accident[change | change source]
On the day of the accident, there was a planned power reduction. By the beginning of the day shift, the power level had reached 50%. Following this, randomly, one of the regional power stations went offline. It was then requested that the further power reduction would be postponed. That request was made at the afternoon of April 25 and further power down was allowed after 22:00.
A turbine generator run down test was scheduled to take place before the routine shutdown. At 00:05 on April 26, the power was at around 23%. 30 minutes later the power fell to a near-zero level, probably due to change of regulator. At 01:00 the power stabilized at around 6% and the test would be run at that level. A turbine was switched off and its oscillations were measured. Shift foreman A.F. Akimov reported to deputy-chief engineer A.S. Dyatlov (who supervised the power down) that the oscillations were measured and a final briefing was given. Everyone went to their instruments and at 01:23:04 the turbine generator run down test began. Everything went completely normal.
The reactor showed tendency to accelerate as the cooling pumps connected to the turbine generator were slowing, and due to the property called positive void coefficient of reactivity - as number of so-called ‘voids’ (e.g. steam bubbles) increases due to increased boiling or loss of coolant, so does the reactivity. But the operators successfully kept the reactor in control and it did not accelerate. At 01:23:40 SIUR (senior reactor chief control engineer) L.F. Toptunov pressed the emergency protection button as planned for the shutdown, at the end of the test. The power was at 7% when the button was pressed. But instead of shutting down, the reactor suffered a power surge. This was due to the reactor being unstable at low power and the shutdown system having severe design flaws. At 01:23:43 the power jumped to 17% and due to the power increase, the automatic control rods suffered damage, and they jammed. Fuel channels ruptured and at 01:23:47 the reactor exploded.
The explosion was so powerful that it blew the 1000 ton steel lid off the reactor. Due to this explosion, large amounts of radioactive materials and fuel were released. This caused the neutron moderator, made of graphite, to start to burn. The fire caused more radioactive fallout to be released, which was carried by the smoke of the fire into the environment.
After the accident, Reactor 4 was covered by a "sarcophagus" made from steel and concrete to stop the escape of more radiation from the lost corium as well as radioactive dust. The sarcophagus was covered in 2016 with the New Safe Confinement structure.
Disputes[change | change source]
The accident raised concerns about the safety of the Soviet nuclear power industry. The Soviet Union slowed the process of making its nuclear industry bigger for some time. The Soviet government also had to become less secretive as a result of the accident. Since 1991, Russia, Ukraine and Belarus have become separate countries. Those countries have continued to pay the high costs for decontamination (removing the radiation) and health care because of the accident. Exposure to radiation leads to a higher risk of getting cancer.
Deaths[change | change source]
It is difficult to accurately tally the number of deaths caused by the events at Chernobyl. A 2005 IAEA report tells of 56 direct deaths; of those, 47 were accident workers and 9 were children who died of thyroid cancer. The report thinks that up to 4,000 people may die from long term diseases related to the accident. However, other estimates range from 4,000 to 27,000 by the Union of Concerned Scientists or Greenpeace who estimate that between 93,000 - 200,000 people died as a result of the disaster.
Aftermath[change | change source]
The other three reactors at Chernobyl continued to operate after the disaster because there were not enough other power plants in Ukraine to meet energy demands. Reactor 2 was decommissioned (permanently turned off and stopped being used) in 1991 after a fire in its turbine hall. Reactor 1 was decommissioned in 1996, and reactor 3 was decommissioned in 2000. In 2018, a 3800 panel, 1 megawatt solar plant was opened next to the former nuclear plant.
Gallery[change | change source]
Related pages[change | change source]
References[change | change source]
Other websites[change | change source]
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Chernobyl disaster.|
- The National Museum Chernobyl Accident
- IAEA Website about the Chernobyl Accident Archived 2014-01-31 at the Wayback Machine
- Ukrainian: Чорнобильська катастрофа
- ICRIN Project (2011). International Chernobyl Portal chernobyl.info.
- Environmental consequences of the Chernobyl accident and their remediation: Twenty years of experience. Report of the Chernobyl Forum Expert Group 'Environment' (PDF). Vienna: International Atomic Energy Agency. 2006. p. 180. ISBN 92-0-114705-8. Retrieved 13 March 2011.
- "Table 2.2 Number of people affected by the Chernobyl accident (to December 2000)" (PDF). The Human Consequences of the Chernobyl Nuclear Accident. UNDP and UNICEF. 22 January 2002. p. 32. Archived from the original (PDF) on 1 February 2017. Retrieved 17 September 2010.
- "Table 5.3: Evacuated and resettled people" (PDF). The Human Consequences of the Chernobyl Nuclear Accident. UNDP and UNICEF. 22 January 2002. p. 66. Archived from the original (PDF) on 1 February 2017. Retrieved 17 September 2010.
- "As 30th anniversary of Chernobyl nears, giant arch set to encase radiation for next 100 years". The Japan Times. 24 March 2016. Retrieved 27 March 2016.