Environmental Engineering Reference
Chernobyl in Ukraine was the site of the most serious nuclear
power plant accident in history. It took place on April 26,
1986. During a test of a reactor, a power surge occurred.
This led to a steam explosion that blew open the top of the
reactor. Another explosion and a fi re followed. The top of the
reactor and the roof of the building were blown off. Workers
made mistakes, and the plant was poorly designed. It did
not, for example, have a U.S.-style containment structure, so
there was nothing to stop radioactive material from escaping.
Radioactive dust spread over areas of Ukraine, Belarus, and
Russia and was carried over much of the rest of Europe.
More than 30 people at the scene died either right away
or within a few months. Thousands of people living in the area
were moved from their homes. According to a 2006 study,
the overall death toll was more than 50. Researchers thought
it was possible that thousands more people might die as a
result of radiation from the accident in the future.
After the disaster, approximately 200 tons (180 metric
tons) of radioactive material remained in the ruined reactor.
To keep the radiation from escaping, the reactor was covered
with a massive concrete “shelter.” Three other power
reactors at the site continued to operate. They were closed
down, one by one. The last one shut down in 2000. Meanwhile,
a small number of the people who had been moved from the
affected area returned there to live.