Pripyat: When it all Melts Down

The Chernobyl disaster is widely considered to have been the worst nuclear power plant accident in history, and is one of only two classified as a level 7 event, the maximum classification, the other being the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in 2011.

On April 26th, 1986 life changed forever for the city of Pripyat and the world. The disaster began during a systems test on Saturday, 26 April 1986 at reactor number four of the Chernobyl plant, which is near the city of Pripyat and in proximity to the administrative border with Belarus and the Drieper river. There was a sudden and unexpected power surge, and when an emergency shutdown was attempted, an exponentially larger spike in power output occurred, which led to a reactor vessel rupture and a series of steam explosions. These events exposed the graphite moderator of the reactor to air, causing it to ignite. The resulting fire sent a plume of highly radioactive fallout into the atmosphere and over an extensive geographical area, including Pripyat.

In the aftermath of the accident, 237 people suffered from acute radiation sickness (ARS), of whom 31 died within the first three months. Most of the victims were fire and rescue workers trying to bring the accident under control, who were not fully aware of how dangerous the exposure to radiation in the smoke was. Whereas, in the World Health Organization’s 2006 report of the Chernobyl Forum expert group on the 237 emergency workers who were diagnosed with ARS, ARS was identified as the cause of death for 28 of these people within the first few months after the disaster, but we will never know the true effects.

 

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