Chernobyl: Thirty Years Later

On April 26, 1986, a systems test started at reactor four at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in the city of Pripyat, Ukraine near the border of Belarus. A power surge happened and after a failed attempt to enable an emergency shut down, a reactor vessel burst and caused a series of steam explosions, igniting an exposed moderator.

International Nuclear Event Scale
The International Nuclear Event Scale ranks nuclear accidents on a scale of one to seven. Chernobyl and one other nuclear accident are the only ones to have reached the seventh scale

The explosions and fires caused more than 350,000 people in both countries evacuated from their homes and resettled into different communities.

Thirty plant employees died from either in the fire or from Acute Radiation Sickness after the event was over.

Today, on April 26, 2016, the effects of the Chernobyl disaster can still be felt by the countries and the people who live in them.

The areas affected by the nuclear accident were classified into four zones: three of those zones had to be evacuated, and citizens had to be resettled elsewhere and were not allowed to return. In the fourth zone, the villages still exist and the people still live in them.

Until fairly recently, people who still lived in the fourth zone were able to seek help from medical professionals about their consistent exposure to radiation.  But the Ukrainian economy had been suffering from the war goin on in the east and from Russia’s annexation of Crimea. The country had also taken loans of billions of dollars from the United States, the United Kingdom, and the World Bank itself.

Ukraine has eliminated the school lunch program for children who live in the fourth zone, and it has caused an outraged since parents have made the argument that the school lunch was the only meal children would be able to eat during the school days and school weeks without any type of radiation in it.

According to an exclusive report by the Associated Press, nuts, berries, and mushrooms have radiation levels that are two to fives more than what is considered safe, according to Ukraine’s Institute of Agricultural Radiology.

Animals are also affected by the Chernobyl disaster. For farm animals, dairy products can still possess levels of radiation in them.

For the wildlife in the abandoned 1,600 square miles, National Geographic reveals the reality of this bittersweet environmental success.

Despite the still high levels of radiation in the area, large mammals in the area have been repopulating. After the relocation of towns and villages, the animals were given a chance to breed and raise offspring without being hunted by nearby people.

A picture of a group of Przewalski's horses.
Przewalski’s horses were on on the verge of going extinct. As part of an effort to increase the population, they were introduced into the abandoned area of Chernobyl, where they have thrived.

A study that was released Monday revealed that population of animals increased especially on the Belarus size of the exclusion zone. The study found there to be “no evidence [that] suggest … their distributions were suppressed in highly contaminated areas.”

Today, the plant and the exploded reactor still stand. Ukraine is making a $2.25 billion shelter to put over the reactor for a long period of time so the government can start working on removing the structure and the radioactive waste inside of it.

The final death toll from the nuclear disaster runs between the number of 9,000 to 90,000. The World health Organization predicts that in due time, people will die from Chernobyl related cancers and leukemia, which is a similar result from the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

With the growing push for cleaner energy and a push to stay awat from nuclear energy and waste, Chernobyl is a lesson in the importance of clean energy and waste and the lengths we must go to protect humans from tragic accidents.

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