On the 26th of April 1986, one of the greatest catastrophes in history occured. Reactor four in the Chernobyl nuclear power plant exploded. The explosion sent radioactive radiation all the way to Sweden, Norway and Germany. Ukraine, at the time a part of the Soviet Union, withheld the information about the accident.
On the morning of 28th of April the staff on the Swedish nuclear power plant Forsmark discovered an increased level of radioactivity in the air. They believed that there was something wrong with Forsmark, and the power plant was evacuated. Later, they discovered that the radiation did not come from Forsmark, but from Ukraine. They started to suspect that a serious accident had happened. Because of the lack of information from Soviet, it took a while before they realized how severe the damage was.
30 workers at the power plant died immediately in the explosion, 600 000 participated in the job of cleaning up and putting out fires. All residents in the area near the exploded reactor were evacuated.
Many fell ill from the high amount of radiation, and died. Even the survivors were severely affected, their children and grandchildren and many generations ahead will pay the prize with their health. Even today children are born with severe diseases and deformities.
Many countries economies were heavily affected by the accident. All in all, the whole incident cost over 100 billion crowns for Ukraine, Belarus and Russia. The indirect costs, for example medical care, are not included. The population was poor, and many people still live under bad conditions.
In a Nuclear Power Plant, you use the energy in the core of heavy elements by separating them with neutrons. When the atom is separated, large amounts of energy are released.
The atoms that are used are all very radioactive, and must be kept away from living creatures.
When such big amounts of energy are released, it gets very hot, and to prevent accidents, the reactor must be cooled down. If it isn’t cooled down it gets so hot that the core melts, and it turns into a meltdown. A meltdown is the most serious accident that can happen on a Nuclear Power Plant.
Nowadays a Nuclear Power plant can handle a meltdown without any severe consequences, because there’s protection around the reactor. In Chernobyl, this did not exist, which led to that all the radioactivity leaked out. To prevent the radiation from continuing to spread, a big so called sarcophagus was built over the reactor.
The Nature adapts
The animals and the nature are the ones that have managed to recover the best. The first years after the catastrophe the plants were radioactive, and the animals which ate them fell ill. Some died, and some survived, and the survivors began to adapt to the new conditions.
Especially the mice were doing well. The mice in the troubled area have a lifespan equal to mice who live under non-radioactive conditions. Scientific studies have been made where “normal” mice were brought into the area, and they didn’t make it. This shows that mice in general aren’t better at handling radioactivity than other species. The pets who were left behind didn’t make it very well, but lots of wolves and boars are living in the abandoned city.
One reason that the animals have done so well is that there are no humans in the area anymore. No exhaust gas, no pollutions and no poisons except the radioactive radiation.
The radiation will probably be there for several hundred years, and there will be a long time before the humans can live there again. So for now, Chernobyl will belong to the animals.
By: Helen J, Hanna F and Anna J