CAUSE The disaster began during a systems test on Saturday, 26th April 1986 at reactor number four of the Chernobyl plant, which is near the city of Prypiat. There was a sudden power output surge, and when an emergency shutdown was attempted, a more extreme spike in power output occurred, which led to a reactor vessel rupture and a series of explosions. These events exposed the graphite moderator of the reactor to air, causing it to ignite. The resulting fire sent a plume of radioactive smoke fallout into the atmosphere and over an extensive geographical area, including Pripyat.
EFFECT The Chernobyl disaster triggered the release of substantial amounts of radiation into the atmosphere in the form of both particulate and gaseous radioisotopes. It is the most significant unintentional release of radiation into the environment to date. It has been suggested that the radioactive contamination caused by the Chernobyl disaster greatly exceeded that of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.
DEATH The number of victims is tremendous; it has been claimed that tens or hundreds of thousands have died as a result of the accident. These enormous death statistics are due to deaths of thousands of emergency and recovery operation workers, as well as people living in contaminated territories, people suffering from mutations.
MUTATION Radiation from the reactor affected the sperm of fathers, leading to mutation in the DNA of their children. None of the parents showed any physical deformities, because the DNA changes dormant, and the long-term effects were than inevitable. These changes caused an increase in risk of cancers, as well as genetic instability in future generations. As of today, mutations have been discovered and documented. There are cases in which the mutations completely disable the person.
WILDLIFE Multiple species have been affected by the radiation as well. Making them bear phisical defects due to flawed DNA. Even thought most radiation has traveled elsewhere, these contaminated genetic pools are still present today.
PRIPYAT â€œFor the attention of the residents of Pripyat! The City Council informs you that due to the accident at Chernobyl Power Station in the city of Pripyat. The Communist Party, its officials and the armed forces are taking necessary steps to combat this. Nevertheless, with the view to keep people as safe and healthy as possible, the children being top priority, we need to temporarily evacuate the citizens in the nearest towns of Kiev County. It is advisable to take your documents, as well as vital personal belongings.â€?
EVACUATION â€œThe list of employees needed to stay in Pripyat to maintain these facilities in a good working order. All the houses will be guarded by the police during the evacuation period. Tovarishchs, (Comrades) leaving your residences temporarily please make sure you have turned off the lights, electrical equipment and water off and shut the windows. Please keep calm and orderly in the process of this evacuation.â€?
AFTER Following the accident, questions arose about the future of the plant and its eventual fate. All work on the unfinished reactors five and six was halted three years later. However, the trouble at the Chernobyl plant did not end with the disaster in reactor number four. Ukrainian government continued to let the remaining reactors operate due to an energy shortage in the country. In 1991, a fire broke out in the turbine building of reactor number two; the authorities subsequently declared the reactor damaged beyond repair.
TODAY The reactor is now enclosed in a concrete sarcophagus, which has been built rapidly in order to allow continuing operation of other reactors within the plant. A handful of Ukrainian scientists have done work inside of the sarcophagus post factum.
MEMORY In the city of Chernobyl there stands a memorial to the liquidators who rushed to reactor number four in the immediate aftermath of the explosion. The firefighters who responded to the disaster, they were unaware that they were entering a radioactive environment, and therefore rushed to the plant without donning any protective suits and respirators.