It should not have been this way … Nobody hoped that the world would get such a terrifying lesson, if the world did understand it at all? Chernobyl is a small city in Ukraine where people used to live and work normally.
It is almost at the very border with Belarus, and until that Saturday, April 26, 1986, it was completely unknown throughout the world, after which it became the most famous synonym for the most catastrophic disaster in human history.
The nuclear power plant in which the disaster struck was not located in Chernobyl itself; it was about 18 km northwest of the city. The nuclear power plant consisted of four reactors of the type RBMK-1000, of which the first was put into operation in 1977, and the fourth reactor, which exploded in 1983. The Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, at its full capacity, provided about 10% of the total electricity of Ukraine with its four reactors.
The chaos caused the radiation of a radioactive substance of 150 million curies for ten days. The radioactive cloud covered parts of Ukraine, the USSR and Europe, causing various types of poisoning, the worst being the poisoning of cesium 137 and iodine 131. The explosion balance was terrible – over 600,000 dead and millions of patients with leukemia, thyroid gland and other carcinogenic diseases that have not been tested.
In the first hours after the explosion, the headquarters and first aid personnel on the spot were exposed to strong radiation whose sources were parts of the inflamed reactor, a radioactive cloud and a radioactive material storage. Due to high doses of radiation received, 237 people were housed in hospitals, of which 52 died in the next ten days. The fate of the others is not publicly disclosed, but it is known that no one survived.
The beginning of the catastrophe
On the eve of the explosion, on April 25, 1986, tests were carried out at a nuclear power plant that was supposed to test the safety of the system, as well as the ability of turbines to generate sufficient amounts of electricity to run the reactor safety systems. Since the RBMK-1000 nuclear reactor is needed for the operation of the nuclear reactor RBMK-1000 as long as it has a nuclear fuel, the goal of the test was to determine whether the turbines in the phase of quenching can produce enough energy to start water pumps from which the operation of the nuclear reactor depends.
In line with this test on Thursday, April 25, 1986, all the necessary conditions were prepared for the testing to begin, so that the production of electricity was reduced up to 50% of the reactor’s capacity, and then completely unexpectedly switched off the regional power plant it supplied the area with the necessary electricity. But the slowness of the mechanism of insertion of control rods lasting from 18-20 seconds and the poor design of the control rods have in fact achieved the opposite effect and increased the reaction speed itself.
At that moment, due to the increased production of energy, the deformation of the operation of the mechanism of the control levers occurred because the control levers stopped at one third of the full cycle and could not stop the reaction. Seven seconds later, at 01.23.47, the reactor power increased to 30 GW, or ten times more than usual, and the fuel pipes began to melt and suddenly increased steam pressure, all of which resulted in a huge explosion of steam that moved and destroyed the lid reactors weighing as much as 2,000 tons and made a huge hole in the roof. (Matson, 2011) After part of the roof flew away, the reaction between the oxygen from the air with very high reactor temperatures and the graphite moderator at the ends of the control levers occurred, causing the so-called ‘Graphite Fire’, which contributed most to the spread of the radioactive cloud to further areas.
Causes of disaster
There are two basic and contradictory theories that led to the nuclear disaster in Chernobyl. The first theory for the sole and only perpetrators is considered by the staff who worked at the plant at the time, while the other theory considers that the design of the nuclear reactor RBMK-1000 is the sole fault for the catastrophe.
Also, there is a conspiracy theory that thinks that the RBMK reactor was beginning to have serious problems and that this information was deliberately hidden from the staff and that this is in fact the main reason why most of the staff was made up of people who did not know almost anything about RBMK reactor. (Lallanilla, 2013)
The main effect of radiation was the huge increase in thyroid gland cancer in children under the age of 15 years. In Ukraine, Belarus and the Russian regions of Kaluga and Bryansk, the number of diseased children has jumped from an annual average of 1.0 people do 700 people! The cases analyzed indicate aggressive carcinogenic forms, often followed by metastases of the cervical ganglia – the nerve structure in the human neck.
On the other hand, the increase in carcinogenic diseases occurs in children exposed to radiation in the mother’s womb and in children born during the reactor accident. The positive correlation between the explosion and the increase in cases of leukemia and other carcinogenic diseases is most pronounced in Belarus. (Ibid) Research also suggests an increase in inborn deformation or mental retardation in the most vulnerable zones. This is explained by the fact that the intake of the food chain has led to a significant absence of vitamins in the diet. The most affected are pregnant women because the lack of only one vitamin – the B1 antigen, causes the appearance of deformation of the central nervous system.
The nuclear disaster in Chernobyl is the worst nuclear disaster in human history that has brought the entire world public to see how big of a danger nuclear energy represents. This nuclear disaster has shown that expensive mistakes can be made in the work with nuclear reactors and has urged the governments of the states that use nuclear power plants to look for new and safer types of nuclear reactors and to place the highest possible level of safety measures on nuclear power plants.
Whether the disaster was caused by poor and inexperienced staff or because of poor design, there is still a controversy, although most likely these two contributors enclosed to the nuclear disaster. In the Chernobyl case, a lot could be learned and it has been learned, and nuclear power plants became places of greatest possible caution. But that does not seem to be enough either, as the case of a disaster in Fukushima in Japan confirms this.