The Chernobyl disaster was a catastrophic nuclear accident at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in the town of Pripyat, in Ukraine, which at that time, was under the jurisdiction of the Soviet Union.
On 26th of April 1986, at approximately 01:23 (Moscow Time, UTC+3), the world experienced the worst nuclear accident in history, regarding both cost and casualties. Due to a technical error, at around 1 am, reactor four blew up, releasing almost 200 times as much radiation as was spewed at Nagasaki and Hiroshima. This was the first time in the history of mankind, where people have fallen to the "invisible enemy"....radiation. Before the Chernobyl disaster, people were sceptical about radiation poisoning, and unfortunately, this accident proved that radiation is indeed something to be feared.
Here are five facts about Chernobyl that I learned from my Grandpa who was there on that day!
5 The Elephant's Foot Photo
We have probably all heard about this famous picture. Photographic proof that with the Chernobyl disaster, a monster was born and to this day still lurking in the depths of the reactor ruins, the monster is still one of the most dangerous things in the world.
The "Elephant's Foot" photo shows a solid mass made of melted nuclear fuel, mixed with lots of concrete, sand, and core sealing material that the fuel had melted. In 1986, scientists measured that the radiation level of the "Elephant's Foot" was at 10,000 roentgen per hour. This indicates that any living creature who dare stand beside it for more than 20 seconds, would die in an instant. At first, only two men were sent down into the contaminated area; they managed to take those memorable photos and to measure the radiation level. Immediately after they got out, they started vomiting, bleeding from their mouth and ears, and eventually died within minutes after a catastrophic heart attack. Their hearts literally exploded inside of their chests from their exposure to the massive amounts of radiation.
4 The Heroes Squad
The brave men who saved millions of people, known as, 'The Heroes Squad,' was a small number of soldiers and volunteers who were given the task of tackling the blaze from the reactor. The fire burnt for ten days straight, and the only people who succeeded in putting the fire out, was 'The Heroes Squad'. It consisted of around 200 members who were brave enough to fight the 'Unseen Death'. Some died from radiation poisoning but in a cruel twist of fate four of them died in a heartbreaking helicopter crash at the scene. The four were part of a small group who flew helicopters above the reactor to drop sand on site, in an attempt to extinguish the flames and toxic smoke. However, the helicopter hit the top of the reactor and crashed right in front of the watching press and public, the crash caused the sudden deaths of all on board. 'The Heroes Squad' were solely responsible for saving Europe from another, more catastrophic explosion, after sending two of their men under the reactor to evacuate the water, and prevent the foreseen catastrophic explosion.
The Squad initially asked scientists for help, and they provided a special robot to clean up the rooftop of the reactor. However, the robot failed after two minutes, due to the high amount of radiation and the brave decision was made that men would sacrifice their own lives for the sake of an entire continent. They sent around ten men in every day, different men, who removed the mess over a three day period. Sadly all 30 men who were up volunteered during those three days, died from radiation poisoning.
3 The Shadows
Not many have heard of 'The Shadows', but it is quite chilling. 'The Shadows' are basically 'body prints' of the scientists left in the chamber after it exploded. When the reactor blew up on the morning of April 26th, 1986, there were two scientists in the control room and the reactor chamber, who all died on-spot. The radiation level was not dangerously high in the chamber, so firefighters and researchers were able to examine the area. Firstly they were looking for survivors, but no one was found. All of the scientists had died within 1 second of the explosion. No bodies had been found, but there was a much more interesting proof of their deaths. Their final moments of life were caught on whatever was behind them. Black body shapes were 'printed' in the control room and the reactor chamber. Apparently the shadow of a man tall man, about 1,85cm, was spotted with his hand covering his eyes, in a desperate bid to protect himself from the blast along with another shape that appears to be a hand pointing to the exit.
The shapes are now known as "The Shadows", and are a poignant reminder of what happened there.
2 The Explosion
Was the explosion planned? Supposedly, the disaster could have been avoided, by just removing a "0". According to conspiracy theories, the explosion at the Chernobyl Power Plant was planned, on a lower scale. It is said that the explosion was supposed to be a test of how radiation affects animals and humans. They wanted to detonate the core of the reactor, and release a small amount of radiation into the air, so they could see how the radiation affects the people from Pripyat and the nearby wildlife. The radiation they intended to release, was not deadly nor harmful for people, they just wanted to see if there would be any change in their lives.
However, when preparing the explosion, the scientists wanted to use only 1mg of radioactive 'detonator' to cause the explosion, until their boss, whose name is unknown, demanded them to use 10mg. Apparently, he thought that it "would be better for the experiment," because they would see the effects faster, and he was right. The effects are still visible to this day. The 10mg of the unknown radioactive material turned out to be far too much, and caused the massive explosion that is known today as the "biggest nuclear accident ever." Although his team argued that 10mg was too much, he didn't listen and wanted to be sure his experiment was a success.
One reckless decision took the lives of thousands.
1 Aftermath Is Tragic
The Russian Government spent billions of dollars on this tragic event. They had to build a temporary sarcophagus to prevent further radiation spreading throughout Europe. However, that sarcophagus was eventually destroyed as it was "rotting" from the radiation. They have now started constructing another, which should be finished in the May of 2017. The money that was spent is not that important compared to the unknown amount of deaths caused as a result of exposure to radiation. It is thought the event could have been responsible for over 30,000 cancer deaths in the years following the disaster, and unconfirmed reports that over 70,000 people are still suffering from disabilities and severe diseases as a direct result of the contamination.
All of those who perished on that day were given awards by the Russian Military and the Russian Government for bravery, and those brave men who went under the reactor to remove the water were given the most respectable awards for sacrifice. The whole town of Prypiat was evacuated. However, one man refused to leave the town and was eventually found dead a few days later in his apartment. His cigar, which was half finished, is still in the ashtray, as he left it, and serves as another sad reminder of the events which took place at that Power Plant.
We can feel the Chernobyl disaster aftermath even today, with specimens of mutated animals coming from the area, and strange substances in the air. The effects of this nuclear explosion will still be evident in 10,000 years. Never forget that we cannot see or eliminate the radiation, but the radiation can see you and will eliminate you.