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The Accident of Chernobyl

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Cynthia Mac Loughlin

Professor Pat Leitch


4 June 2018

                                The Accident of Chernobyl


"The Chernobyl accident should have left some hard lesson: 'Man should not use such powerful energies', judging since what happened in Fukushima, the other nuclear accident happened at a Japanese plant on March 2011 - human race did not learn the lesson "(Sputnik).

The Chernobyl disaster was one of the horrible ones that Europe suffer in the last century. On April 26, 1986, in Ukraine, part of Soviet Union, it was an incredible nuclear accident that occurred at the Vladimir Ilyich Lenin nuclear plant. Only 80 miles from Kiev, the capital. What occurred to produce a disaster that still has consequences today. Chernobyl was the biggest nuclear plants in the world, and was used for a tactical program from the Soviet army. The accident was the consequence of a succession of coincidences, in addition to a low level of security. Today Chernobyl is abandoned and forgotten by humanity. (Aguado)

That day, an experiment would test the turbo-generator unit. This include a power cut. At 1:24, and after around 50 seconds of the test started, were two explosions. The fuel elements of the reactor broke and explode. The lid blows up and the reactor reached temperatures over 2000 ° C. The graphite protection of the reactor burned several days, throwing massive quantities of radiation into the environment. This action released more radiation than the atomic bomb of Hiroshima in 1945. A failure in the security system did not stop the generator and start the tragedy, the cooling elements did not jump to stop it in time. The vapor produced by the explosion destroyed the concrete roof. A few seconds later, another explosion magnified the damage. The explosion took the life of two people, and 29 more after the following months. The Soviet Union evacuate more than 100,000 people because of the hazards (Chernobyl Accident 1986).

To clean the area, the first action was to attempt to extinguish the burning reactor dispensing cold water into the reactor. For the following ten days, more than 30 helicopters form the Soviet Union flew over the reactor (Greenpeace International). They released lead and sand to attempt to control the fire and to absorb the radiation; but all those efforts also failed. In the final stage of the fight against fire, they place nitrogen to the reactor and finally it was cooled. On May 6, the fire and radioactive emanations were controlled. The response to disaster needed of people, not some, thousands of persons who sacrificed their lives and health in an effort to control the catastrophe. There were more than 600 firefighters at the plant and another hundreds from the operations crews who were exposed to radiation with brutality. Some of those were irradiated with higher doses, equivalent to 600 years of annual limit radiation, and were exposed to radioactive material with little or in some cases no protection. Around 850,000 men were working in the clear-out operation in Chernobyl up to 1989. Today, those who still survive suffer from damage into their health (Greenpeace International).

How many of them have died because of the disaster? According to government agencies in the former states affected, near 25,000 have died. The estimations provided by the workers associations in the affected countries are higher than the official statistics. These differences in numbers are due to different approaches of evaluation (How Many Deaths Were Caused by the Chernobyl Nuclear Catastrophe?).

[pic 1]

David Craig, on February 18th, 2014

The effects of radiation exposure fall in two classes: deterministic effects, where the effect is certain to occur under specific conditions (e.g. individuals exposed to several grays over a short time will definitely suffer Acute Radiation Syndrome); and stochastic effects, where the effect may or may not happen (e.g. an intensification in radiation exposure may or may not encourage a cancer in a specific individual but if a sufficiently large population receive a radiation exposure directly above a certain level, an increase in the frequency of cancer may become detectable in that population). (UNSCEAR, 2011).

Is this the end of the disaster? On December 1988, scientists proclaimed that the sarcophagus that now encompasses the reactor was designed for a 30 years life time. Three years after, the Soviet government stopped the construction of the two new reactors on that complex. After extended international negotiations, the whole complex was closed on December 2000, it took 14 years after the tragedy to do it (The Nuclear Accident of Chernobyl).

How faraway would contamination spread? The affected area in Chernobyl is gigantic. The contamination caused by radiation persisted longer and expanded more than anyone could have imagined. After the explosions in the plant, the population were evacuated and relocated on alternative areas. A prohibiting zone with more than 3,000 square miles was established in Ukraine and Belarus. This enormous area cannot be occupied by people for thousands of years. [pic 2]

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