The Chernobyl accident happened in 1986 and is still considered the most disastrous power plant accident in history. Still today, radiation levels are among the highest on the planet!
Radiation and why it is so dangerous
Radiation is a way that energy or heat moves around. The low levels of radiation that are all around us is known as background radiation. The sun, rocks, soil and even animals all give off low levels of radiation.
Radiation specialists use the unit “rem” or “sievert” to describe the amount of radiation dose a human receives. Basically, it indicates how much radiation energy is absorbed in our bodies. Low levels of radiation are not dangerous but medium levels can lead to sickness, headaches, vomiting and fever. High levels are very dangerous and can cause death by damaging internal organs or causing cancer. Treating the consequences of long term exposure to radiation is difficult.
A nuclear power plant produces a lot of radiation but usually, it is safely contained within the reactor. If the reactor becomes badly damaged – like what happened at Fukushima in Japan in 2011 – radiation can escape and damage the environment.
What happened in Chernobyl
The disaster occurred on April 25-26, 1986 during a late night safety test. Technicians simulated a station power-failure but due to non-compliance with test checklists and reactor design flaws, the experiment resulted in uncontrolled reactor conditions. Water flashing into steam generated a destructive steam explosion and an open-air graphite fire. For the next week, the fire sent long plumes of highly radioactive fallout into the atmosphere over an extensive geographical area including Europe.
The steam-blast effects caused two deaths at the facility but over the coming weeks, 134 servicemen were hospitalized with acute radiation sickness (ARS), of which 28 firemen and employees died. Long-term effects are still being investigated.
At Chernobyl, many tons of radioactive soil have been removed and in 2011, Chernobyl was officially declared a tourist attraction. However, radioactive material and objects are still present in the area causing levels of radioactivity much higher than the normal background radiation.
Check out the video by Veritasium to learn more and visit the most radioactive places on earth.