1986: The Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster
Chernobyl is synonymous with Epic Failure on a ridiculous scale. Chernobyl is basically the Russian version of Three Mile Island (power plant incident in Pennsylvania, 1979), except way worse, because this particular accident led to a full blown meltdown. The problem with nuclear meltdowns is that they’re kinda impossible to clean up. So Chernobyl is a fuck up we’ll still be paying for generations from now. Awesome.
During the Cold War between the super powers of Russia and America, nuclear power became a viable energy source as both governments exponentially increased their already absurd supplies of Weapons of Mass Destruction, while they attempted to one up one another in modern tech just to prove which one was better: Democracy or Communism. Other than trying to beat one another in a race to the moon, both of these diametrically opposed foes were also obsessed with atomic power. Luckily the Cold War didn’t end with an apocalyptic-level Nuclear War, but instead the end of the Soviet Union’s reign was partially caused by a nuclear meltdown on its own soil.
Chernobyl is a prime example of how man likes to play with fire, and sometimes gets horribly burned by the subsequent nuclear fallout. This made the Three Mile Island incident look like a false alarm during a game of Bingo. This is the story of the absolute worst nuclear power plant disaster in history…
April 26th, 1986. It was a day like any other in the good ole USSR. The Chernobyl plant workers of Pripyat woke up, showered, got dressed, ate breakfast and went to work. It was supposed to be a routine systems check… something went wrong (like a b-movie poster tag line).
Reactor Number 4, without warning had an unexpected power surge. The engineers attempted to engage the emergency shut down when another energy spike foiled their futile attempts to contain the situation. The reactor ruptured, causing a series of steam-powered explosions leaving the core exposed, directly leading to its ignition.
This series of catastrophic system failures led to the death of 31 workers, but much like the atom-bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, most of the casualties were claimed later by the neon-glowing Grim Reaper known as radiation poisoning. A cloud of plague-like death spread across Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, and some even as far as Eastern Europe were affected by the fallout.
The communist government’s official statement attempted to cover up just how badly the situation had developed, “There has been an accident at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. One of the nuclear reactors was damaged. The effects of the accident are being remedied. Assistance has been provided for any affected people. An investigative commission has been set up.”
When the evacuation of the nearby towns and cities began, people were told it was a temporary safety measure that would only last for about three days, the Ukrainian city of Pripyat has been a radioactive ghost town ever since…
For many it was already too late, the damage had been done throughout the night as a billowing cloud of smoke and ash spread cancerous radiation to thousands of Ukrainian citizens. Hundreds of thousands died from the radiation released which also led to many a horrifying mutation. 1,660 square miles have been quarantined off, and could be uninhabitable for a few centuries, give or take. (The soil will be dangerously radioactive for at least 180-320 more years)
Investigations (by ‘The Union of Concerned Scientists’… no really, they call themselves that) have since found that the primary failure of those responsible was directly due to a lack of proper training and an understanding of nuclear physics. It was found that many key safety measures were simply not turned on. Not to mention deficiencies in design. Unlike the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant in Japan, which was the direct result of a power outage from a tsunami caused by 9.0 earthquake, Chernobyl was human error and shotty engineering.
So whose ultimately to blame?
Ultimately it’s a combination of several factors: under-trained staff, faulty equipment, an experiment gone wrong, and the fact that all those variables lined up at the worst possible moment, triggering one of the worst possible scenarios. (Unlike the Three Mile Island incident, where they avoided a full nuclear meltdown because they had.. you know, trained staff.)
More specifically the incident occurred during the graveyard shift, which was run by entry level personnel. At the time, experimental safety procedures were being implemented. A sudden power surge registered off the charts. The rookie operators weren’t quite sure how to handle it, so began flipping switches. Unfortunately, they made the situation far worse when they began to press the wrong buttons. As the temperature gauges rose, they accidentally shut down crucial cooling pumps, and accelerated the turbines inevitably causing pressure to build to a crescendo. There was no automated backup system at the time to regulate the building pressure which began to cause a series of steam explosions. This led directly to the fuel rods melting down, and within hours the defunct power plant began leaking intense levels of deadly radiation in all directions…
Chernobyl was also the catalyst for Glasnost (a policy, instituted by Mikhail Gorbachev, of increasing transparency in the government’s previously shady methods of business), which was the initiative, many would argue, that led to the total collapse of the Soviet Union… well that and they went broke by spending their entire budget on weapons and vodka.
Good job guys.
“Prip’Yat: The Beast of Chernobyl” by: Mike Kraus
“Visit Sunny Chernobyl!” by Andrew Blackwell
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