The effects of Chernobyl


Ukraine Chernobyl Abandoned Zone Disaster Nuclear

Paige Schneider, Staff Reporter

The world would never be the same after 1:23 a.m. on April 26th, 1989. That’s the day the infamous Chernobyl power plant’s No. 4 nuclear reactor exploded and smothered the surrounding areas with deadly radiation. This was due to a flawed reactor design operated by undertrained personnel. The IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) was quick to determine that the accident would result in nearly 115,000 affected by radiation and 4000 deaths in the long term – these included workers present at Chernobyl at the time of the accident, firefighters, and oblivious citizens caught in the aftermath of the disaster. Not to forget about the brave miners that sacrificed themselves in order to save millions. Had they not, it was possible the reactor core could have melted through the concrete pad holding it up and contaminated the groundwater, threatening many more lives than were already at risk. Chernobyl has gone down in history as one of the most devastating occurrences ever. The real question is, how does Chernobyl still affect us today, if at all? 

  The ruins of nuclear reactor No. 4, even 33 years after the accident and smothered underneath a metal shell, are extremely radioactive and are predicted to remain uninhabitable for the next 20,000 years. The surrounding area is still radioactive, but it’s hard to tell when the area will be completely safe due to the inconsistent contamination levels. Experts predict it will be anywhere from 20 to hundreds of years. However, in 2011, Chernobyl was officially declared a tourist attraction. GHS chemistry teacher Ms. Dillenger gives her opinion on the radiation, “The rule when it comes to radioactivity is time, distance and shielding. So, if people are wearing some sort of protection, or something lead-lined, they could probably tour pretty safely if it was a shorter period of time. Otherwise, spending a lot of time around radioactive material is typically bad news, so I wouldn’t recommend it.” As the area is still highly radioactive, much of the exclusion zone (nearly 1000 miles) is strictly off-limits. In the places you can visit, however, there are multiple safety precautions.  The closest viewing point to reactor No. 4 is 200 meters – only scientists and filmmakers with months of preparation are allowed to step any closer. A day tour usually consists of 10-12 hours, 4 of which are spent driving, and guests are advised to wear clothing that covers their skin. Tourists are also not allowed to touch anything in the area nor take anything out. Due to the rising amount of young tourists performing dumb acts in the area for social media, tourism at Chernobyl may not last forever. If you’re interested in one of humanity’s greatest failures, you better take the time to check it out before it’s no longer an option.