Quantcast
Energy

15 Things You Didn't Know About Chernobyl

In the early morning of April 26, 1986, reactor four of the Chernobyl nuclear station exploded. It caused what the United Nations has called "the greatest environmental catastrophe in the history of humanity."

Chernobyl was the accident that the nuclear industry said would never happen.

Twenty-five years later the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan reminded us that the risk of another Chernobyl remains wherever nuclear power is used.

The long-lived radionuclides released by Chernobyl means the disaster continues 30 years later. It still affects the lives of millions of people. Here are 15 facts you may not know about the disaster:

1. Exactly 30 years ago, Chernobyl's nuclear reactors, located in Ukraine, exploded. Nearly 5 million people still live in the areas considered contaminated.

Local family with wagon of potatoes in Ukraine. Photo credit: Denis Sinyakov / Greenpeace

2. The amount of radiation released is at least 100 times more powerful than the radiation released by the atom bombs dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

Remains of the kindergarten in the town of Pripyat. Photo credit: Steve Morgan / Greenpeace

3. People in the nearest town, Pripyat, were evacuated only two days after the disaster. By that time many people were already exposed to high levels of radiation.

Life in the 30 km zone of Chernobyl. Photo credit: Jan Grarup / Noor / Greenpeace

4. Radioactive rain fell as far away as Ireland. The Ukraine, Belarus and Russia were the most affected countries. They received 63 percent of the contamination from Chernobyl.

Decontamination center in Pripyat. Photo credit: Clive Shirley / Signum / Greenpeace

5. Since Pripyat was abandoned by people due to high radiation levels, wolves, wild horses, beavers, boars and other animals have populated the town.

Wild horses in Pripyat. Photo credit: Vaclav Vasku / Greenpeace

6. Animals living within the 30km exclusion zone around Chernobyl have higher mortality rates, increased genetic mutations and decreased birth rate.

Stray dog in Pripyat. Photo credit: Vaclav Vasku / Greenpeace

7. You'd think the other Chernobyl reactors would have been shut down right away, but the three other reactors at the site were restarted and operated for another 13 years!

Reactor 1 and 2 at Chernobyl Nuclear Plant. Photo credit: Stefan Fuglister / Greenpeace

Read page 1

8. Radioactive material still remains in a crumbling cement sarcophagus built over the reactor following the accident. A new massive shell is being built over the current sarcophagus, but will only last for 100 years.

The new giant structure is intended to contain the nuclear reactor. Photo credit: Denis Sinyakov / Greenpeace

9. The nearby forest close to the disaster is called the "red forest" as radiation gave it a bright ginger color and left nothing but but death behind.

Measuring radiation at the Red Forest in Pripyat. Photo credit: Vaclav Vasku / Greenpeace

10. The nuclear industry and supporting governments in Ukraine, Russia and Belarus want to spend billions on other nuclear projects while ignoring their responsibility to support Chernobyl's survivors. They minimize the impacts of the disaster and hide the day-to-day reality of Chernobyl.

Village Drosdyn near Chernobyl. Photo credit: Jan Grarup / Noor / Greenpeace

11. Now you can even book a trip to the Chernobyl exclusion zone! Tourist agencies organize day tours in the abandoned town of Pripyat.

Thirty years after the nuclear disaster Greenpeace revisits the site and the Unit 4 with the New Safe Confinement (NSC or New Shelter). Photo credit: Denis Sinyakov / Greenpeace

12. Pripyat is highly contaminated and will remain abandoned as plutonium needs more than 24,000 years to reduce just half of its intensity.

Abandoned city of Pripyat in Ukraine. Photo credit: Denis Sinyakov / Greenpeace

13. Radiation was so strong that the eyes of firefighter Vladimir Pravik changed from brown to blue.

Abandoned hospital in Pripyat. Photo credit: Vaclav Vasku / Greenpeace

14. Sweden was the first country to inform the world about the disaster as the Ukrainian government decided to keep Chernobyl's explosion a secret at first.

Deserted city of Pripyat. Photo credit: Clive Shirley / Signum / Greenpeace

15. In the contaminated areas, Chernobyl touches every aspect of people's lives. Chernobyl's radiation is in the food they eat, the milk and water they drink, in the schools, parks and playgrounds their children play in and in the wood they burn to keep warm.

Resident sells local produce in Russian market. Photo credit: Denis Sinyakov / Greenpeace

Please speak out in solidarity with Chernobyl survivors and join us for a twitter thunderclap.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

The ‘Careful, Thoughtful’ Approach to Indian Point Is to Shut It Down Now

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Animals
Two baby Loggerhead turtles. U.S. Air Force / Senior Airman Veronica McMahon

A Record 589 Sea Turtles Killed By Florida's Toxic Red Tide

Florida's longest red tide in more than a decade has killed scores of the state's most iconic marine animals.

The current outbreak, which began in October 2017 off southwest Florida, has been tied to a record 589 sea turtle deaths and 213 manatee deaths, the Herald-Tribune reported, citing figures from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals
Lake Baikal. W0zny / Wikimedia / CC BY-SA 3.0

Wildlife Under Siege at the World’s Oldest Lake

By Marlene Cimons

Lake Baikal is the world's oldest and deepest lake. It's at least 20 million years old, and roughly a mile deep at its lowest point. The Siberian lake contains holds more water than all the North American Great Lakes combined, what amounts to more than one-fifth of all the water found in lakes, swamps and rivers. It was formed by the shifting of tectonic plates, which created a valley that filled with water. That shift continues today at a rate of around 1 to 2 centimeters year, meaning the world's biggest lake is only getting bigger.

Keep reading... Show less
Insights/Opinion
Oil rig operating next to a walk and bike way in the Signal Hill area of Los Angeles. Sarah Craig / Faces of Fracking / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

U.S. Oil and Gas Industry Is Drilling Us Towards Climate Disaster

By Kelly Trout

As the 116th Congress commences, in the wake of dire reports from climate scientists, the debate over U.S. climate policies has taken a welcome turn towards bold solutions. Spurred on by grassroots pressure from Indigenous communities, the youth-led Sunrise Movement and communities from coast to coast fighting fossil fuel infrastructure, Capitol Hill is alive once again with policy proposals that edge towards the scale required to address the crisis we're in.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals
Bumblebee on goldenrod. Jim Hudgins / USFWS

Half of Michigan's Bumblebee Species in Decline, One Extinct

Honeybees get a lot of attention for their worrisome decline, but many species of bumblebees—which are key pollinators—are also in trouble.

In Michigan, half of its bumblebee species have declined by 50 percent or more, Michigan Radio reported.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Popular
Bound bales of crushed plastic bottles and containers sit stacked ready to be recycled at a recycling center in the Netherlands. Jasper Juinen / Bloomberg / Getty Images

Toward a Circular Economy: Tackling the Plastics Recycling Problem

By Margaret Sobkowicz

Why has the world continued to increase consumption of plastic materials when at the same time, environmental and human health concerns over their use have grown?

Keep reading... Show less
Oceans
Bleached coral at the Great Barrier Reef. The Ocean Agency / XL Catlin Seaview Survey / Richard Vevers

2018 Was the Hottest Year Ever Recorded for Our Oceans

The year 2018 was the hottest year for the planet's oceans ever since record-keeping began in 1958, according to a worrisome new study from international scientists.

The findings, published Wednesday in the journal Advances in Atmospheric Sciences, noted that the five warmest years for our oceans were the last five years—2018, 2017, 2015, 2016 and 2014 (in order of decreasing ocean heat content).

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
EPA Acting Administrator Wheeler / EPA

Senate Shouldn’t Put Wheeler at the Wheel of the EPA

By Ana Unruh Cohen

As the longest government shut down in history drags on, and the experts protecting our air and water remain off the job, the Senate is barreling forward to put Andrew Wheeler at the wheel of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). He is unfit for this public trust.

In his seven-month tenure as the acting administrator at EPA, Wheeler's relentlessly pushed to advance the pro-polluter agenda launched by Scott Pruitt, the worst administrator in the agency's storied 48-year history. Wheeler may lack Pruitt's scandals, but he's no improvement.

Keep reading... Show less
Health
Westend61 / Getty Images

Top 20 Healthy Salad Toppings

By Lizzie Streit, MS, RDN, LD

Salads are typically made by combining lettuce or mixed greens with an assortment of toppings and a dressing.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!