Lessons from Chernobyl 30 Years Later

Source: history.com

Source: history.com

Each April 26, apart from recalling the anniversary of my first ever hard drive crash, I wonder if we have learned anything from Chernobyl.

Thirty years ago on this day, easily the worst peacetime nuclear disaster occurred on this planet. And it leaves us with a big question.

Can nuclear installations be trusted in the hands of the government near population centers?

I wonder why Chernobyl has not made the answer easier for us. Clearly not. Chernobyl is not just a reflection of the horrors of nuclear technology, but it is also an insight into the mindset of the bureaucracy in a country with a massive government.

Granted, such a design mistake has not been repeated since, yet that is not the only danger involved in nuclear reactors.

We probably do not realize the extent of irreversible damage nuclear radiation could cause. Actually, we clearly don’t.

 

Chernobyl released at least 100 times more radiation than the Hiroshima nuclear bomb, according to the BBC. Other sources consider the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone uninhabitable for humans due to dangerous Cesium radiation levels, and that the inhabitable zone would remain dangerous for the next 20,000 years. That’s shocking.

Not to mention the terrible toll the disaster has taken on animal life in the region, with suppressed biodiversity and startling diseases emerging among newborn and children as a result of genetic mutations.

 

Chernobyl disaster literally turned the neighboring Pripyat into a ghost town, which sends chills down your spine.

The nuclear radiation from the disaster spread out as far as Sweden and Western Europe.

Source: BBC

Source: BBC

We may hear about it on a day like this, but we never really believe that a nuclear spill or meltdown as in the case of Chernobyl could last for thousands of years.

As of January 2016, 439 nuclear reactors are operating around the world on five continents. While there is no doubt that nuclear technology has only improved over the years and most scientists consider nuclear technology very safe, it hardly changes the lethality of a possible accident.

Fukushima could not have been a harsher reminder of our vulnerability. If a highly advanced industrial nation such as Japan cannot handle the breakdown of a nuclear reactor in the aftermath of a natural disaster, even worse can be expected from countries with far poorer government infrastructure, such as Pakistan and India.

As a matter of fact, some reports suggest that the fallout from Fukushima is far worse than Chernobyl and Hiroshima and that the worst effects of the accident are yet to materialize. However, the reporting of the risk has largely to do with the politics of the source as well, there is little doubt that Chernobyl was incomparable in its consequences due to its meltdown nature.

Fukushima also reveals is that no nuclear facility is completely disaster proof and that the potential fallout is nothing short of an environmental apocalypse.

I leave this post by pondering what to make of nuclear energy policy. Nuclear energy has its benefits as clean energy and the probability of nuclear accidents is considered very low. Furthermore, with maintaining nuclear weapons becoming almost a necessity for world powers, why not just take the risk of building nuclear reactors for power generation as well?

After all, they are well protected anyway.

But isn’t the risk of the pervasiveness of civil nuclear power plants unique in its own right? Despite the fact that most of the warnings about the potential danger of this mode of generating power are dismissed as pure alarmism.

Clearly, the only lesson that is visible after 30 years is that we are only building more nuclear reactors.

But what if we were building around our neighborhoods, with our own hands, the same disaster that we feared and dreaded so much during the uncertain Cold War?

Sadly, the evidence that we have witnessed over the years is just too overwhelming to ignore.

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A Quarter of a Century Since Chernobyl

A quarter of a century has passed since the worst nuclear accident in history. On April 26, 1986, the Nuclear power plant at Chernobyl, Ukraine, in the then USSR, exploded leaking nuclear radiation about a hundred times the Nuclear explosion at Hiroshima. I cannot think of anything more but to say that the day reminds us why we should be so proud of Nuclear technology. After all, it allows us to make great changes to the way things work naturally, something we consider a sign of human intelligence and intellect. And since it proves potentially dangerous and destructive to human life, this further affirms this notion.

It’s a pity that despite all our scientific advances, we turn to Nuclear Energy as a source of generation of power. Of course, Nuclear Technology is very safe. It rarely causes any casualties and how many accidents have we witnessed since the Chernobyl one? None. Until of course, a massive 9 magnitude earthquake hit the Japanese city of Fukushima on March 11, 2011, causing explosions in the Nuclear power plant in the city, resulting in the leakage of radioactive material to the extent that it is being compared to the Chernobyl incident.

One Nuclear accident caused by human error, the other by a natural disaster.

Either of that could happen at any time and at any Nuclear reactor in the world. We have been very lucky that this does not happen too often. But it very easily could. And we are dealing with Nuclear Radiation here. Its effects spread globally and do not remain confined to the borders of the country suffering such an accident. And let us not even talk about the effects of Nuclear Radiation from such accidents on life.

Even if we rule out the human error factor, or even the computer error part, in causing a Nuclear accident, as strict security measures have been taken in Nuclear plants the world over to prevent incidents such as Chernobyl (or so they tell us), the natural disaster risk factor would always remain there. We still have a long way to go when it comes to fighting the catastrophic effects of natural disasters, but we must not forget that the secondary disasters in their aftermath are usually a creation of our own.

Revisit Chernobyl after 25 years.

For The Effects of Chernobyl on the Wildlife After 25 Years, from National Geographic, Click here.

Not much use in generating power in a way which will not leave anyone who would need it in the first place.

Pretty short sighted for an intelligent species.