Home Facts 10 Facts: The Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster in 1986

10 Facts: The Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster in 1986

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The Chernobyl Disaster happened 25 years ago today (on the 26th of April 1986) in the Ukraine (which was then part of the Soviet Union / USSR).

I still remember seeing the news report on the 8 O’Clock News on the SABC on the day it happened. The Chernobyl Disaster was the most serious accident in the history of the nuclear industry.

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Here are 10 interesting facts about the Chernobyl Disaster

1. The disaster occurred at 1:23 AM

At this time one of the reactors suffered a catastrophic power increase, leading to explosions in its core. This dispersed large quantities of radioactive fuel and core materials into the atmosphere.

2. It cost the Soviet Union a lot of money

The battle to contain the contamination and avert a greater catastrophe ultimately involved over 500,000 workers and cost an estimated 18 billion rubles.

3. A lot of the people were evacuated and resettled

In the aftermath of the disaster (between 1986 and 2000), +/- 350,000 people were evacuated and resettled from the most severely contaminated areas of Belarus, Russia and the Ukraine.

4. The Chernobyl Disaster remains the only Level 7 incident on the International Nuclear Event Scale.

Inspired by the Richter scale used to measure the magnitude of earthquakes, the INES (or International Nuclear Event Scale) is a tool for communicating to the public the safety ramifications of reported nuclear and radiological incidents and accidents.

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5. Belarus received 70% of the contamination from Chernobyl

This landlocked country (which was also part of the Soviet Union at the time) is located only 10 miles from the border with the Ukraine. Thousands were affected by various fatal ailments ranging from leukemia and thyroid cancer to cardiovascular disease. To date, Belarus has lost well over $235 billion in revenue as a direct result of the Chernobyl disaster. One fifth of Belarus’ farmland was contaminated by the Chernobyl disaster.

6. The explosion at Chernobyl created an immense radioactive cloud

It was detected all over the European continent and even fell to the ground in Ireland in the form of light “nuclear rain”. Although that was 25 years ago, the ramifications of the disaster are still being felt in the United Kingdom / Ireland.

According to a study conducted by the British Ministry of Health, 369 farms and 190,000 sheep in Britain still contain faint traces of radioactive fallout from the Chernobyl disaster. On the positive side, the number of affected sheep is down nearly 95% from 1986 when 4,225,000 of the woolly mammals were placed under restrictions across the UK.

7. Benefits are still being paid to 7 million people affected by the Chernobyl disaster

According to a study conducted by the UN Chernobyl Forum, Belarus, the Ukraine and Russia are still paying significant benefits. According to the study 5% to 7% of Ukraine’s annual government spending still goes to Chernobyl victims.

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8. Emergency crews had to react quickly following the explosion at Chernobyl.

They responded by burying the complex in a massive concrete tomb that became known as “The Sarcophagus”.

25 years later it’s still being used and it’s beginning to show serious signs of wear. Plans have been made by authorities to improve the structure, but none have been carried out yet.

9. Estimates for the numbers of direct and indirect deaths from the disaster vary.

The Chernobyl Forum (a group of eight UN agencies and the governments of Ukraine, Belarus and Russia) have estimated the death toll at only a few thousand. The environmental group Greenpeace puts the eventual death toll far up to 93,000 (including cancer deaths globally). The Chernobyl Union of Ukraine (a non-governmental body) estimates the present death toll from the disaster at almost 734,000.

10. It’s going to be a while before the power station is decommissioned

Officials say it could be up to 100 years before the Chernobyl station is completely decommissioned. A 30-km (19-mile) exclusion zone is in place around the disaster site.

There you have it, some basic facts about the 1986 Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster.

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