Chernobyl: history, impacts and current risks

Concerns are growing about the safety of the defunct Chernobyl nuclear power plant after its power supply was cut off by the Russian military.

The invaders “disconnected” the plant from the national grid on Wednesday morning, Daily Mirror reported, “sparking fear at the site” that radioactive material could begin to leak out if it is not re-energized within 48 hours.

Ukraine’s national electricity company Ukrenergo says it “cannot” restore power lines due to fighting in the area, reports Guardians.

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has warned that within two days “the cooling system of the spent nuclear fuel storage facility will stop working, making a radioactive leak imminent”.

The power station is no longer a functioning power plant following the explosion of one of its reactors in 1986, but the site still requires ongoing management and monitoring during the decommissioning process.

The catastrophic accident at the then Soviet nuclear power plant resulted in the deaths of about 50 firefighters and rescuers at the time, and thousands more in the following decades from radiation. emitted by the explosion. Here is the full story behind the explosion.

What happened?

In the early hours of April 26, 1986, workers at the Chernobyl plant, originally known as the VI Lenin Nuclear Power Plant, attempted an experiment at one of the site’s four reactors.

The test was designed to see if it was possible to bridge the gap between the declining power grid – which was common in the last years of the Soviet Union – and the takeover of the plant’s backup generators.

However, the test was rushed and unplanned, and a subsequent reactor explosion saw two explosions blow off the reactor’s roof and blast tons of radioactive material into the air. atmosphere in Ukraine, Belarus and more.

How many people are affected?

Due to the secretive nature of the Soviet government, the details of the disaster, including the death toll, were mostly hidden from both Soviet citizens and the outside world.

The United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) identified 49 immediate deaths from trauma, acute radiation poisoning, and one helicopter crash during the shafting process. fish.

However, the long-term impact is more bleak. In 2005, UNSCEAR noted a spike in thyroid cancer cases in the vicinity, and predicted that “a total of 4,000 deaths will eventually be due to the Chernobyl accident.”

More than 100,000 people were evacuated from the area immediately after the accident, and the total number of people evacuated from severely contaminated areas eventually reached 340,000. These people have never been allowed to return home and the off-limits areas are collectively known as “Exclusion Zones”. Access to this area can only be granted by the Ukrainian government and is only for 12 hours at a time in most cases.

Chernobyl destroyed the Soviet Union?

It has been suggested that the extremely expensive cleanup and elaborate government cover-ups may have been the catalyst for the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

“Soviet authorities have long refused to acknowledge domestic disasters,” said NBC News. “But this time, as the fallout-carrying winds passed through much of Europe, their delays angered the international community and exposed their pathological secrecy.”

Disappointment over the government’s handling of the disaster in the Soviet Union has also reached unprecedented levels, with tens of thousands of protesters taking to the streets in Kiev and elsewhere. BBC reported.

According to Mikhail Gorbachev, the then leader of the Soviet Union, the Chernobyl disaster was a “turning point” that “opened up the possibility of much greater freedom of speech, to the point where the system as we know it could not be continued. again”.

The BBC adds: “Chernobyl self-disclosure is more of a sign of a system failure and failure than a technological disaster.

What is the current risk?

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog, said there was no cause for immediate concern, as it “did not see any serious safety impact”. ” for the outage at the outage site, just 60 miles away. Kyiv.

The watchdog says there is enough water in spent fuel tanks to keep fuel rods cool and avoid accidents.

It also reiterates a statement they issued on March 3, which said that due to the amount of time that has passed since the Chernobyl disaster – about 36 years – the spent fuel has cooled down enough to ” the pool is sufficient to maintain efficient heat removal without power supply”.

However, there are concerns about conditions inside the plant after it was captured by Russian forces. More than 100 workers and 200 security guards were trapped at the site for nearly 12 days.

According to BBC, the workers are continuing their duties in an atmosphere that has so far been very “calm”. But the condition is said to be “difficult” with very little food and medicine.

The broadcaster said there were worries that the tense situation could soon affect their ability “to carry out their duties safely”.

https://www.theweek.co.uk/93147/what-happened-at-chernobyl Chernobyl: history, impacts and current risks

Fry Electronics Team

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