On April 26, 1986, the world was stunned with the news of explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine. Reports say human error caused the accident. The tests went wrong and a power surge caused the reactor to explode, releasing considerable amounts of radiation into the environment.
According to the World Health Organization, 36 people died due to the accident. This was, the authorities believe, the worst nuclear disaster in world history. Compared to the atomic bomb dropped in Hiroshima at the end of World War II, the Chernobyl nuclear disaster was 400 times worse.
Events after the Explosion
As the emergency crew tried to suppress the fire and radiation leaks, they exposed themselves to the health effects of fallout. Day by day, the death toll of plant workers increased as they succumbed to acute radiation sickness. Within just four months, 28 Chernobyl nuclear power plant workers died.
Residents of nearby city Pripyat evacuated about 36 hours after the explosion, with some already showing signs of radiation sickness, such as vomiting and headaches. Officials then closed off a 30km area around the power plant. Some accounts say the radiation even reached as far as Sweden.
Decommissioning of the Plant
The reactor that exploded in 1986 was #4. The other three continued operation until authorities decommissioned #2 in 1991 due to fire. Reactor #1 shut down in 1996, while #3 was decommissioned in 2000. The website EnergySolutions.com mentions that innovative programs and facilities enable safe and cost-effective decommissioning and waste management of nuclear power plants.
Authorities sealed the damaged Reactor #4 inside a concrete sarcophagus. Its efficiency to hold the remaining radiation for many more years is still in question. There are plans already, but the construction of a more permanent structural container remains unimplemented.
Despite the health risks of exposure to radiation, a handful of residents went back to their homes. In 2011, Ukraine opened the area to tourists who want to see the aftermath of the disaster firsthand.