1986: Soviets admit nuclear accident
The Soviet Union has acknowledged there has been an accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine.
The report, from the official news agency, Tass, said there had been casualties but gave no details of numbers. It said aid was being sent to the injured.
The report said that one of the reactors had been damaged in the accident, but gave no further details beyond saying that measures were being taken to "eliminate the consequences of the accident". It also claimed the accident was the first at a Soviet power station.
The report was the first confirmation of a major nuclear catastrophe since monitoring stations in Sweden, Finland and Norway began reporting sudden high discharges of radioactivity in the atmosphere two days ago.
The accident is believed to be the most serious in the history of nuclear power, worse even than that at the Three-Mile Island power station in the United States in 1979, when there was some release of radioactivity but nobody was injured.
The Chernobyl nuclear power plant, just north of Kiev, consists of four nuclear reactors, known as light-water cooled, graphite-moderated reactors - a type hardly used outside the Soviet Union.
Nuclear experts say the levels of radioactivity recorded indicate that the nuclear core of the damaged reactor may have melted down.
The number of casualties, both immediately and in the future, from radiation sickness, is expected to be high, although the exact number may never be known. It is not believed, however, that there is any risk to the health of anyone outside the Soviet Union.
The discharge of radioactivity was so great that by the time the fallout reached Sweden, 1,000 miles away, it was still powerful enough to register twice the natural level of radioactivity in the atmosphere.
The sudden jump in radioactivity levels was enough to prompt a full-scale alert in Sweden, which initially believed the accident had happened at its own nuclear power station, on the Baltic coast. The evacuation of 600 workers had been ordered before experts realised that the source of the radioactivity must have been within the Soviet Union.
Even though most people would widely regard the Chernobyl incident as the worst nuclear disaster in history, I would also regard it as one of the worst environmental disasters in history.
There are many debates that have taken place where people argue about the use of the nuclear power as a source of energy. No one can doubt the sheer efficiency of energy produced by nuclear power plants. However, many have raised concerns about the effects and potential effects it nuclear power might bring to the environment. With such an event occurring, the dangers of nuclear power have finally been brought into brighter light.
Till this day, there is an official exclusion zone around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant remains in place, extending for 30 kilometres. It is one of the most radioactive spots on Earth. Flora and fauna in the area was most likely killed or mutated by radiation when the plant’s failsafes failed. Species that could have yet to be discovered could have been killed in the area around Chernobyl, potentially never to be discovered by modern science.
The health effects on humans is also devastating as most people exposed to the high levels of radiation around the nuclear power plant were either killed by radiation poisoning or were left with lingering and haunting health problems. Most survivors had their life expectancy severely shortened due to genetic mutations from exposure to radiation.
Hopefully, us humans would learn from the negative effects of nuclear power, as evident by the Chernobyl and Japan nuclear disasters, and either stray away from it, finding new means of power production to replace it, or improve on the design of nuclear plants and their failsafes in order to make sure that such a environmental disaster never occurs again.