Ukraine this year marks the 30th anniversary of the Chornobyl nuclear disaster – the world’s worst civilian nuclear accident.
Sirens were sounded in the early morning hours on April 26 in Ukraine to mark 30 years since the moment that the first explosion blew the roof off the building housing a reactor at the Chornobyl nuclear power plant, sending a cloud of radioactive material high into the air, drifting into Russia and Belarus and across northern Europe.
President Petro Poroshenko attended a ceremony on April 26 at the Chornobyl plant, which today is located in the middle of an uninhabitable “exclusion zone.” Mr. Poroshenko said in his speech that “the consequences of the catastrophe” have not been resolved. He added that the disaster has been “a heavy burden on the shoulders of the Ukrainian people” and that the country was “still a long way” from overcoming the tragedy.
The Embassy of Ukraine in the United States provided the following information on the Chornobyl disaster.
On April 26, 1986, reactor No. 4 of the Chornobyl nuclear power plant, located about 100 kilometers north of Kyiv, exploded. The Chornobyl tragedy remains the world’s worst accident at a nuclear power plant due to the number of its victims and the scale of its effects. It will take many more years and huge resources to finally overcome the effects of the Chornobyl disaster.
Due to a fire at the fourth reactor, about 60 tons of radioactive substances polluted the air. Because of this, the radioactivity exceeded by 30 to 40 times the value registered in Hiroshima after a nuclear bomb was dropped on that city. Radiation from Chornobyl was recorded not only in the former USSR, but also in Western countries; the radioactive cloud even touched the East Coast of the United States.
In the attempts to extinguish the fire at the fourth block of Chornobyl, which lasted more than 10 days, 31 of the 240 firefighters sent to do the job died and the rest received high doses of radiation. Despite the danger and extremely complex working conditions, they managed to prevent a strong hydrogen explosion that could have resulted in an even more tragic accident.
The powerful radiation lasted three weeks. Because of the Chornobyl explosion, 2,293 localities in 12 regions of Ukraine were contaminated.
As of January 1 of this year, there are 1,961,904 citizens of Ukraine who have the status of victims of the Chornobyl disaster, including 108,530 disabled and 418,777 children. More than 35,000 families receive benefits due to the loss of a breadwinner whose death is related to the Chornobyl disaster.
Sources: RFE/RL, Embassy of Ukraine in the United States.