Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament
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At 1.23am on April 26th, 1986 the number four reactor at the Chernobyl Power Plant in the Ukraine exploded. The technicians had allowed the power to fall to low levels as part of a controlled experiment. It went wrong and the reactor overheated causing a meltdown of the core. Two explosions blew the top off the reactor building releasing clouds deadly radioactive material into the atmosphere for over ten days. These clouds blew over parts of Europe in the world's worst civilian nuclear reactor disaster ever.

Aerial view of Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant

Radiation hotspots from accident
Officials estimate that about 30 people were killed immediately and more than 15,000 people died in the emergency clean up afterwards. Radiation equivalent to 500 times that released by the atom bomb dropped on Hiroshima was measured in the atmosphere around Chernobyl after the explosion. A further 50,000 are believed to have suffered illnesses as a result of radioactive contamination. U.N. figures show that millions in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia still live on contaminated land. Seventy percent of the radiation is estimated to have fallen on Belarus and 10 years later babies were still being born with no arms, no eyes, or only stumps for limbs. It has been estimated that the number of people affected over 15 million people have been victimised by the disaster in some way and that it will cost over 60 billion dollars to make these people healthy.

"The fallout from the world's worst nuclear accident, Chernobyl, spread across Europe. Even now, nearly 15 years after the accident, sheep farmers in Wales, Scotland, the North West and Northern Ireland still operate under Government restrictions because of the radioactive fallout from the accident.

There is a 19 mile exclusion zone around the Chernobyl site which will effectively remain a radioactive wasteland forever. In addition, villages within a 50 mile radius of the plant have been evacuated. In the UK, a similar spread of contamination could result in the evacuation of thousands of people, and millions of others exposed to deadly radiation.

The health impact from Chernobyl and other nuclear accidents is still emerging. For instance, there has been huge increase in thyroid cancers amongst people in the Gomel region of Belarus who were young children at the time of the accident. The UN's World Health Organisation estimates that around 36% of Belorussians who were aged between 0 and 4 at the time of the accident are ultimately expected to develop thyroid cancer. Further health impacts include other cancers, such as leukaemia, other thyroid diseases and damage to the immune system."

from 2000, Greenpeace website

Dispersement of Radioactive Cloud

Nobody knows quite what is occurring under the concrete sarcophagus covering Chernobyl's fourth reactor, which exploded in 1986. There are widespread fears that the concrete shell may begin to crack and leak radiation.

Chernobyl's fourth reactor covered by a concrete sarcophagus