The Nuclear Accident
It has been more than 25 years since the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant had it's accident, and it will most likely remain contaminated for the next 300 years. But before this accident, Chernobyl was a city with more than 10,000 residents. What remains today?
By: Cédric Caron-Lavoie, Mathilde Gélinas and Claudia Lirette
Before the Accident
Chernobyl used to be a very cultural city. In 1880 it had a population of 10'800 and before 1986 it had a around 14'000 residents. It is named after the Ukrainian word for mugwort, which is a plant. It can also be said that it is named after a combination of "chornyi" and "byllia", which translate to "black grass" or "black stalks". In 1569, it became part of the Kindom of Poland. Around 1793, Russia, Prussia and Austria gained control of Poland, therefore Chernobyl became part of the russian empire. During the last half of the 18th century, It became the main center of Hasidic Judaism, but in the early 1900s, many of them were killed by the Black Hundreds, which was an ultra-nationalist movemenet in Russia. During the Polish-Soviet War (1919-1920), the city was taked by the Polish army followed by the Red army. In 1921 Chernobyl was incorporated into the Ukranian Soviet Socialist Republic and in 1977 the government comissioned the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant.
The chernobyl disaster was mainly caused by human error. The engineers on the evening shift at Chernobyl's fourth reactor began an experiment to see whether the cooling pump system could still function using power generated from the reactor under low power should the auxiliary electricity supply fail. After pushing the reactor too far, it began to overheat, the cooling system turned to steam as the power generated was 100 times greater that the normal. This caused fuel pellets in the core started to explode and ruptured the fuel channels. At round 1:24, two explosions blew off the dome shapd roof and the contents erupted outwards. As the air was sucked in it ignited highly flammable gasses and burned for a total of nine days. The reactor was not encased in a reinforced concrete shell, thus increasing the damages and the burning and caused radioactive debris to spew into the atmosphere.
When they built the sarcophagus around the reasctor, they did it quickly and it is now close to cumbling. A plan was made for a 8 million dollar replacement designed to cover the old one and to last 100 years. Scientists have been surprised to find wild animals living around the reactor and even some birds living in the reactor without any ill effects.
Chernobyl's Population Today
After the accident, 200,000 people were evacuated. They had a limit of three days, but this time limit turned into weeks, months and even years. But some still refuse to leave, 200 poeple went back to their homes in 1987 and even today seven towns are still inhabitted, either they do not want to leave or they don't know where else to go. Scientists and doctors have been instructed to leave for two weeks after a maximum of 15 days stayed at Chernobyl, but the rule is not enforced. Doctors, grocery stores, cafeterias and even a church can be found in Chernobyl today. Most fruits grown there are contaminated, but many people eat them anyways beacause the stores are out of stock. Many refugees are homesick and the majority of the population, mainly the elderly, don't know or understand the risks of radioactivity in this big town. They only know that it is killing them. One woman even staying in the restricted area even stated, "I came back to die here."