As part of a test, plant workers lowered extremely hot nuclear fuel rods into the cooling water which produced immense amounts of steam and heat which created a power surge and two explosions. Human error combined with a flawed design of the reactor caused this accident. Lack of a safety culture caused many fatalities and a future of mutations and unknown health impacts.
Reactor 4 was being routinely tested to identify how it would handle a low power output situation. When the nuclear reactor exploded, 8 tons of lethal radioactive debris was released into the atmosphere. It reached beyond the Soviet Union and covered most of Europe. "The world's worst nuclear power plant disaster occurred when human errors led to a dangerous heat and steam buildup, triggering two enormous explosions."
Much of the world had been changed after this disaster in several different ways. According to the World Nuclear Association, "The accident caused the largest uncontrolled radioactive release into the environment ever recorded for any civilian operation, and large quantities of radioactive substances were released into the air for about 10 days. This caused serious social and economic disruption for large populations in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine." This radioactive material spread over much of Europe. Many lessons were taught after realizing the negative health, environmental, social, economic and political consequences of the Chernobyl disaster which affected in some way, not only Europe, but the entire world.
"The radioactive materials released by the accident had many immediate harmful effects on plants and animals living within 20 to 30 km of the Chernobyl power plant at the time of the accident. ... Still today there are reports of anomalies in plants and animals both in the Exclusion Zone and beyond." Clearly there were short-term and long-term effects.
Today, 30 years after the disaster, a 1.6 billion dollar project to cover up the site of Chernobyl has been built in order to confine leaking radioactive material. This New Safe Confinement (NSC) shield is the "largest moveable land-based stricture ever built," says the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. This horrific event will hopefully never repeat itself anywhere on Earth.
"Chernobyl accident - Ukraine: 1986." When Technology Fails, edited by Neil Schlager, Gale, 2008. Science in Context, link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/CV2645800027/SCIC?u=catholiccenhs&xid=cc229aba. Accessed 2 May 2017.
“Chernobyl Nuclear Accident.” Chernobyl: 3. How Has the Environment Been Affected by the Chernobyl Accident?, www.greenfacts.org/en/chernobyl/l-2/3-chernobyl-environment.htm. Accessed 2 May 2017.
“What Is Chernobyl?” The Chernobyl Gallery, 25 Jan. 2016, chernobylgallery.com/chernobyl -disaster/what-is-chernobyl/. Accessed 2 May 2017.
Graham Templeton on December 5, 2016 at 2:45 pm Comment. “30 Years Later, $1.6B Mega-Project Finally Puts Chernobyl to Rest.” ExtremeTech, 5 Dec. 2016, www.extremetech.com/extreme/240367-30-years-later-1-6b-mega-project-finally-puts- chernobyl-rest. Accessed 2 May 2017.
Gigova, Radina. “Giant Shield Slides into Place over Chernobyl's Damaged Reactor.” CNN, Cable News Network, 30 Nov. 2016, www.cnn.com/2016/11/30/europe/chernobyl-giant-shield/. Accessed 2 May 2017.