Thirty-two years ago, on April 26th, one of the most prominent nuclear disasters took place at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in northern USSR at around 1:23 A.M. In this nuclear power plant, one of the four nuclear reactors at the plant exploded during a test designed to check this reactor. Mainly, this occurred due to a defective reactor design that was operated by personnel which was not trained properly, since they ran it at low power, causing it to be highly unstable. Given that the Chernobyl plant did not have the containment structure nuclear power plants tend to have, radioactive material escaped into the environment. It was reported by Soviet scientists that it contained around 190 metric tons of uranium oxide fuel and fission products, from which 13-30% escaped into the atmosphere. According to Soviet studies, this material scattered to Belarus, which received 60% of the contamination, the south of Bryansk in Russia, and parts of northwestern Ukraine. Altogether, it contaminated more than 200 000 km2 of Europe.
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This radiation also adversely affected the population living in and around the area. Overall, it has caused an increase in mortality rates and in several diseases, including psychological and physical conditions. When the disaster happened, 28 highly exposed reactor staff and emergency workers died within the first months of the incident because they were ill with ARS. Additionally, this disaster has also caused 985 000 more deaths because of cancer until 2004, according to a report published by the New York Academy of Sciences. Also, it is projected 4 000 deaths will follow according to the IAEA.
Furthermore, it has caused malformations and mutations in new-born babies, especially in Belarus. Regarding psychological effects, it has caused PTSD in an extensive amount of people due to the magnitude of the catastrophe. Additionally, when it comes to the environment, it has been so severely contaminated that the area around Chernobyl will not be habitable by humans for another 20 000 years. With tests revealing that cesium-137 in this area is not decreasing as fast as it was predicted, scientists believe it will continue to damage the environment for at least 180 years. However, this only applies for this isotope, as others may remain in the area forever. Likewise, this radiation has infected wildlife up to the point that it has caused genetic damage and increased mutation rates in many organisms.
Due to this disaster, the UN has designed an action plan to help the affected population in this area. First of all, the UN and its partners provided emergency support, which was focused on evaluating the nuclear safety and environmental conditions of this area and diagnosing the medical conditions that had surged after the incident. Likewise, it focused on raising awareness among the affected population so that they could protect themselves from this radiation.
All in all, even though this disaster implied several disastrous consequences, it has served us to start developing a new safety culture to prevent this kind of disasters.
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