Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, Ukraine
Aftermath of the Chernobyl Disaster
On April 26, 1986, in the middle of the night, a steam explosion tore the roof off reactor number 4 at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine. The reactor did not have a containment building, so the explosion exposed the reactor core directly to the atmosphere.
The reactor was operating at the time of the explosion, and the graphite blocks that surrounded the reactor fuel were red-hot. With the addition of oxygen from the atmosphere, the graphite began to burn fiercely. To make matters worse, the fuel in the reactor was close to the end of its useful life and was filled with a wide variety of different radioisotopes.
Between the explosion and the fire, the Chernobyl disaster was the worst radiation accident in history. It led to the evacuation of the nearby town of Pripyat, 56 deaths, and a large increase in cancer deaths among the most highly exposed people. Ultimately, a 30-kilometer exclusion zone was created around the reactor and the population within the zone was ordered to leave. More than 350,000 people had to be relocated.
Radioactive fallout from the reactor fire contaminated a wide area. Close to the reactor itself, a large forest of pine trees was killed by fallout and became known as the “Red Forest” because of the color of the dead trees. The forest ...