Chernobyl Disaster

By : Neha Dhyani

Updated : Apr 20, 2022, 5:14

The Chernobyl Disaster occurred on April 26, 1986, when reactor No. 4 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant exploded near Pripyat in the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. Chernobyl was the location of one of the greatest nuclear tragedies in human history.

Chernobyl Disaster - Overview

The unit 4 reactor at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Pripyat, Ukraine, exploded on April 26, 1986, spewing enormous amounts of radioactivity into the surrounding area.

Ukraine was a member of the Soviet Union at the time, which would have lengthy implications for the superpower in the years ahead. The Chernobyl Disaster and the Fukushima Reactor Incident in Japan is some of the greatest nuclear disasters in world history.

The destiny of the Chernobyl power plant lies in the balance now that Russia's invasion of Ukraine is in full gear, as the Russian army surrounded the reactor's perimeter on February 24, 2022, preventing routine maintenance from proceeding.

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Causes of the Chernobyl Disaster

The Chernobyl Disaster started because the reactor had several design problems that made it volatile, to begin with when the test was conducted. The contact of hot fuel with cooling water resulted in fuel fragmentation and rapid steam production, causing pressure build-up.

The Chernobyl Power Plant attained 50% capacity in energy production on April 25, 1986. Instead of shutting down, the plant experienced a power spike that increased from 7% to 17%. As a result of the power surge continuing beyond normal levels, the automatic rods were damaged.

The reactor's 1000-ton cover plate became detached due to the pressure buildup, collapsing fuel channels and clogging control rods. The high steam generation extended throughout the core, fueled by water spilt after the rescue cooling mechanisms failed. This resulted in a steam explosion, which dispersed fission products into the atmosphere. A second explosion shot shards from the fuel tower a few seconds later. The fuel lines burst, and the reactor erupted at 01:23:47 AM.

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Effects of the Chernobyl Disaster

The Chernobyl Disaster resulted in the greatest ever recorded radioactive discharge into the environment. It released all of the xenon gas, half of the iodine, caesium, and 5% of the remaining radioactive material. For ten days, significant amounts of radioactive dust were discharged into the atmosphere, causing social and economic harm to the people of Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia.

On April 27, after the Chernobyl Disaster, the entire town of Pripyat was evacuated. Approximately 45,000 people were evacuated to safe zones. On the 14th of May, around 116,000 individuals living within a 30-kilometre radius were evacuated. A few of them returned to live informally within the contaminated zone, putting their health at risk.

After the Chernobyl Disaster, more than 220,000 individuals were relocated to safe zones with minimal to no contamination. The original Chernobyl exclusion zone of 30 kilometres was expanded to 4300 kilometres. The safe zone was extended to safeguard the region from the massive radioactivity that had covered the area.

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FAQs on Chernobyl Disaster

Q.1. What was the cause of the Chernobyl Disaster?

The Chernobyl Disaster in 1986 was caused by a faulty reactor design that was managed by people who were not properly qualified.

Q.2. Is the Chernobyl Disaster location still a working power plant?

The State Agency of Ukraine for Exclusion Zone Management is in charge of both the Chernobyl Disaster zone and the old power facility. Although the plant is still in the midst of decommissioning, the three other units remained operating following the disaster and were eventually closed by 2000.

Q.3. How many people perished as a result of the Chernobyl Disaster?

Because of the long-term health impacts of radioactive pollution, determining the real death toll of the Chernobyl Disaster is challenging. The total death toll directly related to Chernobyl that has been acknowledged by the global community is just 31, with the UN estimating that the number could be as high as 50.

Q.4. Was the Chernobyl Disaster unmitigated?

The Chernobyl Disaster is regarded as one of the greatest nuclear power plant disasters in history.

Q.5. What caused the Chernobyl Disaster?

The Chernobyl Disaster occurred when personnel at nuclear reactor Unit 4 performed a poorly prepared experiment. The reactor's energy system and emergency safety systems were turned off, and control rods were removed from the core, enabling the reactor to run at 7 percent power.