In the early morning hours of April 26, 1986, the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine exploded in what many considered the world’s worst nuclear disaster. According to the UN Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR), the explosion happened during a routine maintenance check. The operators turned off vital control systems, which was against safety regulations, to test the electrical systems. As a result, the reactors reached dangerous, unstable, and low-power levels. The nuclear core explosion spewed radioactive material into the atmosphere.
The meltdown not only rendered the genera place uninhabitable until today, but it also created a fear of anything that has nuclear capabilities that still persists today. As the World Nuclear Association said, "The Chernobyl accident was serious and has resulted in long-term psychological and socio-economic impacts for the people affected.”
Here are some other facts about the Chernobyl nuclear disaster that people should know.
|Chernobyl explosion / Photo by: HBO via Live Science|
Toxic Chemicals Were Released in the Atmosphere.
Reports showed that an estimated 13 to 30 percent of about 190 metric tons of uranium dioxide fuel and fission products escaped into the atmosphere. Unfortunately, the situation was poorly handled. Soviet and western scientists reported that Belarus, one of the countries affected, received about 60 percent of the contamination. At the same time, a large area in the Russian Federation south of Bryansk was contaminated.
|A doctor treating one of the victims of the radiation / Photo by: Gerd Ludwig via Nat Geo Image Collection|
Evacuees. Injured. Dead.
The authorities began evacuating people from the area around Chernobyl within 36 hours of the accident. According to an article by National Geographic, a world leader in geography, cartography, and exploration, the Soviet Union evacuated 335,000 people in all. The explosion killed outright 28 people and injured more than 100. The UNSCEAR reported that more than 6,000 children and adults developed thyroid cancer after being exposed to radiation. The complete consequences of the accident remain highly debated and understudied.
|The plant after the explosion / Photo by: Gerd Ludwig via Nat Geo Image Collection|
A Lot of Firefighters Died.
The Chernobyl explosion also started a fire at the power plant. According to an article by Live Science, a science news website that features groundbreaking developments in science, space, technology, health, the environment, our culture, and history, dozens of firefighters died from radiation poisoning. It was reported that they were exposed to over 1 quadrillion gammas, a penetrating kind of radiation that is released from reactor explosions, dirty bombs, and nuclear weapons.
|Burned trees near the site / Photo by: Gerd Ludwig via Nat Geo Image Collection|
Trees in the Woodlands Were Killed.
Due to high levels of radiation, tens of thousands of hectares of forests experienced massive radioactive contamination. Most of them their trees were killed. The region was later named the “Red Forest” because the dead trees turned a bright ginger color. According to the National Science Research Laboratory, the trees were eventually bulldozed and buried in trenches.
|Vehicle remains in Pripyat / Photo by: Shutterstock via Live Science|
You Can Still Die From Radiation in Chernobyl Today.
Decades after the explosion, there are still several hot spots in Chernobyl that have dangerous radiation levels. People who will be exposed will slowly die. These hot spots can be found in cracks in and around Pripyat where the radioactive particles accumulated. Several areas of the red forests where a lot of the main fallout happened are also dangerous to people.
|A fox living near an abandoned apartment complex / Photo by: Istock and Tijuana 2014 via Mental Floss|
Many Animals at Chernobyl Survived.
A 2009 study published in Biology Letters revealed that populations of invertebrates are lower in certain locations around the Chernobyl disaster area where there is more radiation. Experts also projected that many parts of the place will remain unsafe for humans for another 20,000 years. However, numerous animal and plant species have thrived throughout the years. According to an article by Mental Floss, an online site that delivers smart, fun, and shareable content in an upbeat and witty environment, many animals have settled there. More than 200 species of birds have created their own ecosystem within the Chernobyl disaster area.
|Abandoned buildings in Pripyat / Photo by: Gerd Ludwig via Nat Geo Image Collection|
The Absence of Humans Is Returning Chernobyl to the Wilderness.
The outcome of the Chernobyl disaster has shown what our planet will be without humans. Since there are fewer humans in the area and hunting has been strictly illegal within the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, nature has reestablished itself. Reports have discovered that a few species are living better within the place rather than outside of it. For instance, it was found that wolves are seven times as abundant on the premises than in other, non-radioactive areas.