Graffiti adorns a wall April 4 in the ghost city of Pripyat near the fourth nuclear reactor (background) at the former Chernobyl Nuclear power plant, site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster. (Sergei Supinsky/AFP/Getty Images)
The Chernobyl nuclear accident is widely regarded as the worst accident in the history of nuclear power. It is the only nuclear accident that has been classified a “major accident” by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
During a routine test, the plant’s safety systems were turned off to prevent any interruptions of power to the reactor. The reactor was supposed to be powered down to 25 percent of capacity, but this is when the problems began. The reactor’s power fell to less than one percent, and so the power had to be slowly increased to 25 percent. Just a few seconds after facility operators began the test, however, the power surged unexpectedly and the reactor’s emergency shutdown failed. What followed was a full-blown nuclear meltdown.
The reactor’s fuel elements ruptured and there was a violent explosion. The fuel rods melted after reaching a temperature over 3,600 degrees Fahrenheit. The graphite covering the reactor then ignited and burned for over a week, spewing huge amounts of radiation into the environment.
About 200,000 people had to be permanently relocated after the disaster. IAEA reported in 2005 that 56 deaths could be linked directly to the accident. Forty-seven of those were plant workers and nine were children who died of thyroid cancer. The report went on to estimate that up to 4,000 people may die from long-term diseases related to the accident. Those numbers are a subject of debate, however, as the Soviet Union did much to cover up the extent of the damage. The World Health Organization reported the actual number of deaths related to Chernobyl was about 9,000.
Source:Image credit: Wikimedia Commons
It’s been 25 years since the World’s worst nuclear disaster, and at Chernobyl, calls for lessons to be learned.
Children hold candles at the monument to Chernobyl victims in Slavutich, near the accident site, and where many of the power station’s personnel used to live, during a memorial ceremony. (AFP Photo/Sergei Supinsky)
A woman lights candles at a memorial dedicated to firefighters and workers who died after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster during a night service near the Chernobyl plant in the city of Slavutych April 26, 2012. Belarus, Ukraine and Russia mark the 26th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster, the world’s worst civil nuclear accident, on Thursday. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich (UKRAINE – Tags: DISASTER ENERGY ANNIVERSARY)
Villager Ivan Shamianok (L), 87, meets with former neighbours on the eve of “Radunitsa”, or the Day of Rejoicing, a holiday in the Eastern Orthodox Church to remember the dead, at a cemetery in the abandoned village of Tulgovichi, near the exclusion zone around the Chernobyl nuclear reactor, some 370 km (230 miles) southeast of Minsk, April 23, 2012. Shamianok never left his village in spite of the Chernobyl blast, and he is now one of six six …