The use of nuclear power has been a point of contention for many years. Critics of the use of this energy often cite the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine as a prime example of why this type of energy should not be used. The Chernobyl nuclear power plant, located in Pripyat, exploded and emitted radioactive materials into the environment. This event ranks as one of the top catastrophic nuclear events in worldwide history. As well-known as this event is, there may be some Chernobyl disaster facts that you are not currently aware of.
1. 200 Tons of Radioactive Material Remain in Chernobyl
Let’s start with one of the Chernobyl disaster facts that are very much worrying to those who live near the power plant. Even after the Chernobyl nuclear power plant explosion, the plant continued to remain in operation. In fact, the last reactor was not shut down until 2000, which is 14 years after the explosion took place. More than that, more than 200 tons of radioactive material are still located inside the power plant, and it may take as much as another 100 years before the power plant is completed decommissioned. Meanwhile, those who live within a very large radius around the facility continue to feel the effects of the nuclear waste material.
2. Far More than 31 Deaths Have Been Linked to the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant Incident
When you read media stories about the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster, you hear about the 31 individuals who died directly from the explosion and fire during the days the fire burned. These were workers at the plant as well as rescue workers who were the first to respond to the incident. However, the death toll actually far exceeds this number.
The radioactive material that entered the atmosphere has spread far and wide throughout the Soviet Union and surrounding countries. Shortly after the event, 50 emergency responders passed away from acute radiation syndrome. Some sources state that between 9,000 and 60,000 cases of thyroid cancer that have been reported may have been caused by this event. This is a difficult type of cancer to treat, and the total death toll related to this event could tally into the thousands or tens of thousands of people. Other sources state that as many as 90,000 cases of cancer may be related to this event.
3. The Worst Man-Made Natural Disaster
The International Nuclear Event Scale rates events based on how devastating and widespread damage is. The Chernobyl disaster is only one of two events that received the highest rating possible, which is a rating of seven. The other event was the Fukushima Daiichi event that took place in Japan in 2011. Both of these events leaked a substantial amount of deadly contamination into the environment. In addition, both have resulted in a significant decline in the interest of building new nuclear reactors in areas around the world. Nonetheless, nuclear sources continue to be used to generate power. It also continues to be a threat to the world population on all continents except for Australia and Antarctica.
4. The Soviet Union Did Not Receive the Bulk of Contamination
You might think that Soviets were the primary victims of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant event. However, this is not the case. It is true that tens of thousands of people were forced to evacuate from their homes while the fire burned. Furthermore, over 500,000 individuals were negatively impacted by the event. However, it is estimated that more than 70 percent of the radioactive contamination material impacted the neighboring country of Belarus.
In Belarus and other surrounding countries, it was common for doctors to advise pregnant women to abort their pregnancies because of the likelihood that the babies would be born with severe birth defects as a result of this event. It is not known how many abortions are related to the Chernobyl event. Many other women chose to avoid trying to get pregnant because of the event. Some sources estimate that more than five million people throughout the region were exposed to the high levels of radiation.
5. The Remaining Radioactive Material May Be at Risk
Last on our Chernobyl disaster facts list, here’s a worrying thought. The Chernobyl facility is in relatively poor condition. The remaining 200 tons of radioactive material at the power plant are located in a building known as the sarcophagus. This building is crumbling and in poor condition.
It is reported that the explosion and fire that took place in April 1986 dispersed more than 100 times the amount of radiation of both the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs used in World War II on Japan. Radioactive acid rain from the event fell as far away as Ireland. What’s more, an entire forest located closer to the nuclear facility turned red because of exposure to radiation. This forest is now appropriately known as the Red Forest. The impact on wildlife throughout the region is not accurately known.
Because additional radioactive material located in the deteriorating sarcophagus may be at risk, the global impact of this event may continue to grow if a leak occurs. Nonetheless, some residents have moved back into the affected area because of a few financial incentives offered by the Ukrainian government.
Hopefully, these Chernobyl disaster facts shed light on many questions you may have had. Many people are not aware of the incredible impact that the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster has had on so many lives in countries near and far. They are also not aware of the long-term impacts of radiation exposure as well as the continued risk that this facility presents. The unfortunate reality is that nuclear meltdown events that occurred in Pripyat and in Fukushima can occur elsewhere as well.
Knowing these distressing Chernobyl disaster facts, where do you stand when it comes to nuclear energy?