Common questions about Chernobyl disaster
What happened at Chernobyl?
Chernobyl accident is one of the two most catastrophic nuclear explosions in the history of the world. The disaster took place at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, located in the city of Chernobyl, north of Kiev.
- The accident was caused when the pipes of the reactor no.4 of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant exploded due to human error.
- The accident is scaled at the maximum number 7 level which measures the intensity of the accident.
- The financial loss was over US$ 300,000 while the loss of life to date has been not properly measured.
When did Chernobyl happen?
The accident occurred during the early hours on the 26th April 1986. This caused a huge radioactive cloud cover in the sky over present day Belarus, Ukraine and Russia. Sweden was the first country to ring alarm bells and inquire with Russia (USSR at the time) as to why there were inheriting huge levels of radioactivity from the south side of their country. This inquiry prompted USSR to reveal to the world the true nature and extent of the accident.
Why did Chernobyl happen?
The Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant had four reactors; those reactors had nuclear energy pipe lines which were continuously being cooled down by cooling pumps. On the day of the incident, an experiment was to be conducted on the reactor no.4 of the power plant where the turbine generators were tested as the power supply provider to the cooling pumps. After the testing, the power supply of the cooling pumps was to be switched back from turbine generators to diesel generators. The switch over however failed which resulted in the pipes of reactor no.4 that contained 190 tons of fuel, exploding. The explosion caused damage to the building and adjoining buildings resulting in a fire. Besides the fire, huge sums of radiation got released from the plant into the environment.
Can the disaster ever happen again?
No, as the accident has resulted in the plant being completely shut off in 2000. The process of decommissioning is still going on which will be completed by approximately 2065. There are 15 other nuclear plants operating in Ukraine but the measure of safety since the Chernobyl accident has been beefed up.
What was the basic cause of the accident?
It accident was solely down to error of the operator. The testing which was scheduled for the morning of 25th of April 1986 with the staff of the morning shift at Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. Due to Kiev’s electrical power grid shutting down, the testing was delayed. The grid eventually restarted by 11pm of 25th April, prompting the experiment to recommence but by that time the night shift staff were on duty. Inadequately trained night shift operator was given the task of switching over the power supply from turbine to diesel generators of the cooling pumps. A failure in doing it caused a snowball effect.
How was reactor no.4 different from other reactors?
The Chernobyl model reactor was intended to produce electricity through nuclear energy and also breed Plutonium for military equipments. The generation of both these required charcoal structure and refueling that was to done operationally. Besides, there was no confinement built around the reactor which could have held and minimized damage in case of an explosion.
The death toll is said to be above 100,000, how true is that?
Around 30 staff members died immediately after the explosion and several others died subsequently due to high levels of radiation. Once the explosion took place, many firefighters and ambulances were sent on a rescue mission while several hundreds were evacuated from Pripyat and nearby villages. Those sent for rescue ultimately suffered from elevated levels of radiation causing diseases and subsequent deaths. Many have suffered in terms of diseases since the explosion. The figure of 100,000 is not accurate as no health organization has been able to measure the extent of death that occurred due to the explosion.
Since the accident, Chernobyl had a 30km exclusion zone which is permanently closed for any unauthorized entrants. Ukraine government has placed check points at entry and exit points to control the traffic. This measure has kept the situation of radiation within the acceptable norms.
What measures has since been taken for safeguarding the plant?
The Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant is under continuous supervision. Ukraine has placed strict rules and regulations in place for anyone visiting the place. Recently the roof of one of the buildings at the power plant came down which forced the government of Ukraine to construct a New Safe Confinement (NSC) to shelter the power plant. The estimated amount of money spent on the securing of Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant has been over US$ 1 billion. The World Health Organization (WHO) also investigated the incident and released Chernobyl documents to understand the root cause of the disaster. Those papers have since been used to avoid any such calamities in the future.
Cuba has been providing free healthcare facilities to the effected children, who still suffer due to traces of radiation in the air.
How is the plant handled now and what effects did the incident have on others?
The city of Chernobyl is completely abandoned so is the Pripyat Town though adjoining villages has seen their residents return to their villages. At the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, NSC is being built to sustain and safeguard the population from further damage that could be caused due to the radiation releases. The incident encouraged Ukraine which was a part of USSR when the incident took place, to be more careful while dealing with its other nuclear plants. This incident has rung alarm bells for the entire Europe to strengthen their procedures for necessary action when experimenting with nuclear power plants.
How is the future course of action?
Ukraine is taking the safety of its citizens very seriously with appropriate measures taken in place to shield from any further radiation emissions. Once the NSC is complete, the radioactivity will also come under control through decay resulting in a safer surrounding at Chernobyl. The decommissioning of the plant will also come to an end in 50 years’ time.
Visit Chernobyl zone yourself!And You will see:
Pripyat Ghost TownPripyat ghost town is 1 of 7 scariest places around the world
Radar system Duga-1Radar Duga-1 was secret radiolocation station in USSR
And many more exciting places with Chernobyl tours