Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Chernobyl disaster

Today is the 20th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster.

The Chernobyl disaster arose from an accident that occurred at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Pripyat, Ukraine. On Saturday, April 26, 1986, at 1:23:58 a.m. local time, the unit 4 reactor of the Chernobyl power plant—known as Chernobyl-4—suffered a catastrophic steam explosion that resulted in a fire, a series of additional explosions, and a nuclear meltdown. It is regarded as the worst accident in the history of nuclear power. Because there was no containment building, a plume of radioactive fallout drifted over parts of the western Soviet Union, Eastern and Western Europe, Scandinavia, the British Isles, and the eastern United States. Large areas of Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia were badly contaminated, resulting in the evacuation and resettlement of over 336,000 people. About 60% of the radioactive fallout landed in Belarus. According to the 2006 TORCH report, half of the radioactive fallout landed outside the three soviet countries. The disaster released over four hundred times more radiation than the atomic bomb of Hiroshima.
A 2005 report prepared by the Chernobyl Forum, led by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and World Health Organization (WHO), attributed 56 direct deaths; 47 accident workers and 9 children with thyroid cancer, and estimated that as many as 9,000 people, among the approximately 6.6 million, will ultimately die from some form of cancer (one of the induced diseases). For its part, Greenpeace estimates a total death toll of 93,000 but cite in their report “The most recently published figures indicate that in Belarus, Russia and the Ukraine alone the accident could have resulted in an estimated 200,000 additional deaths in the period between 1990 and 2004.”

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