Date and Location:
The Chernobyl Disaster occurred
on April 26th, 1986 at 1:23 a.m. in the country of Ukraine, where a reactor in
a nuclear power plant exploded 8. This disaster occurred at the site of
reactor Number Four at the Chernobyl
Nuclear Power Plant near Pripyat, a town in northern Ukrainian
Soviet Socialist Republic
which was part of the Soviet Union (USSR) 8.
Who was involved?
The Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant and many individuals were
involved in this disaster. Many technicians and operators were known to have a
part in the tragedy. Nikolai
Gorbachenko, Valery Khodemchuk, Vladimir Shashenok, Anatoly Kurguz, Alexander
Yuvchenko, Valeriy Perevozchenko, and Nikolai Fomin were a few of the individuals
who played a major role. The countries that were involved the most were
Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia 1.
reactor malfunctioned and ruptured causing one of the most catastrophic nuclear
disasters in history as shown in figures 1 and 2. Research on this disaster
later determined that it was caused by human error, largely due to lack of
following protocol, and poor overall design of the nuclear reactor itself 9.
The initial cause of the disaster was a test to improve the reactor in case of
an emergency power failure. The intentions of the test were to be harmless, but
unfortunately there were several mistakes leading up to the test. While
preparing before the test, operators had disconnected a series of protection
systems. This then created a domino effect after testing had already began.
Since the explosion of the reactors, massive amounts of radiation have
contaminated the entire surrounding area. Chernobyl is now an entombed
wasteland that until this day is not safe for human life even kilometers away.
Cause of Disaster:
The disaster began due to a scheduled shutdown of reactor Number
Four in the Chernobyl plant. This scheduled shutdown was in place to run a
test, that if successful, would improve the emergency safety of the reactor.
The reason for this test was to decrease the time it took for the emergency
backup generator to begin cooling the reactor.
The backup cooling did not reach full capacity to keep the reactor
stable within a safe range, until approximately 50 to 60 seconds 9. Prior to
testing, emergency shutdown systems were disabled as a part of the experiment.
This was ultimately the biggest mistake that had caused the explosion. The
emergency systems that were disabled during testing needed to be reactivated,
however it was too late. Once the systems were reset the complications were
escalating too quickly for any reversal. Once the EPS-5 emergency systems
button was pressed, it caused the initiation of the reactors meltdown protocol.
Within this protocol it was later found that malfunctions such as the control
rods time to safe distance and flawed graphite tip control rod design fueled
the destruction of several other operating systems. 9. After the domino
effect of problems, an extremely large power surge hit the reactor that caused
a large explosion. Evidence shows that after the initial explosion from the
power surge, this caused a chain of explosions destroying the reactor entirely.
Therefore, the cause of the situation was due to both human and machine error.
Investigations show that there was a lack of knowledge towards the reactors
physics, and engineering. As well as a lack of training and supervision of
plant operators. Regarding the reactor itself, investigation shows that the
design of the reactor did not comply with standard codes of safety and
design with the International Nuclear Safety Advisory Group 9.
conclusion, there was a great amount of suffering to innocent families and the
environment. It was noted that 100,000 km2
of land was contaminated due to human error 1. The worst hits being
Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia as shown in figure 3. Sixty percent of the
contamination was received by Belarus that had originally fallen on former
Soviet Union 1. Weather permitting, the contamination was widespread and even
reached the mountains; the Alps, the Welsh, and Scottish Highlands. One of the
major issues of the aftermath was the effect it had on the Keir’s 2.4 million
residents and their access to contaminated drinking water. The plant was next
to the Pripyat River that connects to the Dripper reservoir system which was
the main water supply for Kier residents 1. All contaminants had settled to
the bottom of the river and were in an insoluble phase which would not dissolve
for up to 800-1000 years. As a result, the water supply was relocated over to
Desna River for the time being 1. It is also believed that there has been an
increase in thyroid cancer. The incident led to a total of thirty deaths to
operators and firefighters within the first three months, and several more months
later 1. The damage costs of this
disaster are estimated to be $235 billion, however it is believed that only
eight percent of this cost has been invested so far 1.
disaster put the world in such a shock forcing new global agreements to be
implemented shortly after this incident had occurred. There were two global
agreements that were put into action: The Convention on Early Notification of a
Nuclear Accident and the Convention on Assistance in the Case of a Nuclear
Accident or Radiological Emergency 10. Both conventions include sharing
official information among Member States and helping affected countries when
asked and create a huge influence in the global nuclear safety worldwide 4,
10. A decade later, the Convention of Nuclear Safety was brought into place to
ensure the vitality of nuclear safety across the globe. With international
benchmarks in place, the parties which are liable for the operation of nuclear
power plants have a dedicated commitment to keeping a heightened level of
safety in accordance with the IAEA Safety Standards 10. The regulations and
standards in the IAEA Safety Fundamentals document “Fundamental Safety
Principles (SF-1)” details the accountability of the signatories. The
accountabilities cover from initial design to building, to resources required
both from employees to financially, to the monitoring and audit of safety and
quality and crisis readiness 4, 5.
In 2011 on April 20th and 21st, IAEA held an international
conference that discussed the lessons that were learned from the accident
called the, “Chernobyl, 25 Years on: Safety for the Future” in Kiev. It was
addressed by the president of IAEA, Yukiya Amano 7. In the conference many
experts spoke out, including the IAEA. They gave
a summary on their findings about the technical experience that was gained over
the decades and the new strategies and safety policies that are now being
launched globally 7.