Chernobyl 10 years later
On April 26th, 1986 the World's worst nuclear power accident occurred at Chernobyl in the former USSR (now Ukraine). The Chernobyl nuclear power plant located 80 miles north of Kiev had 4 reactors and while testing reactor number 4 numerous safety procedures were disregarded. At 1:23am the chain reaction in the reactor became out of control creating explosions and a fireball that blew off the reactor's heavy steel and concrete lid. Radioactive debris spewed to a height of 1 km and radioactive gasses and fallout were carried as far the United States. This disaster has displaced more than four hundred thousand people, been linked to over two thousand radiation exposure related deaths, contaminated the nearby lands and livestock, and has made a impact globally..
Since the accident approximately four hundred thousand people have been evacuated and relocated. They have become environmental refugees, unable to return home. The areas they have left have become a radioactive desert comprised of no-entry areas covering thousands of acres of land fenced off with barbed wire. Approximately 2,000 towns and villages in Belarus and the Ukraine, just north of Chernobyl, have been evacuated. Between 3 and 5 million people, including 2 million children, in the Ukraine live in radioactive zones. In the radioactive zone areas there are bans on children walking in forests or in rain, playing in the parks, and picking wild berries or flowers due to the high levels of radiation. Parents that live in these zones must check local radiation levels before allowing their children out to school.
The Chernobyl accident killed more than 30 people immediately. Of the 400,000 workers who s job was burying the dangerous wastes and constructing a special building around the ruined reactor that is universally referred to as "the sarcophagus, up to 16,000 workers have died, 30,000 people have fallen ill including 5,000 that are now too ill to work. Over 1000 children have developed thyroid cancer, with 20,000 to 50,000 others expected to develop the disease. .Greenpeace Ukraine has estimated a total of 32,000 deaths.
Seventy percent of the land surrounding Chernobyl was used for farming. Direct radiation injury to plants and animals was reported only in local areas within the 30-km Radius. Lethal effects from the radiation were seen around the forests in the area for some small mammals. In1989, the World Health Organization stated the natural environment of the areas ecosystems is beginning to recover but there is the possibility of long-term genetic effects. Restrictions are in place on the use of locally grown food in the area.
Many countries across Europe burned numerous amounts of vegetation because of contamination. A ban on many agricultural goods was placed in Eastern Europe. Restrictions in the United Kingdom were placed on the movement and slaughter of sheep. In January 1996 these restrictions were still in place in 219 farms effecting 317,400 sheep and covering more than 1097 km.
The disaster at Chernobyl was the world's most devastating nuclear power accident. This disaster contaminated thousands of acres of land, forcing people to leave their homes. Radiation exposure related deaths are in the thousands and expected to rise. Farmlands in the Ukraine and in Europe are unusable with crops and livestock being destroyed or restricted. Cleanup of the contamination is expected to continue for the next twenty years.