Monday, March 17, 2008

Chernobyl Disaster in Ukraine: 1986

On April 26, 1986 at 01:23 am, Reactor IV at the V.I. Lenin Memorial Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station exploded spreading a radioactive plume throughout what is now known as Belarus, the Russian Federation, and Ukraine, making it the worst-ever civil nuclear accident to date. The Chernobyl disaster unleashed radioactive fallout 400 times more intense than the Hiroshima bombing in World War II and has affected nearly 3 million citizens, many of them Byelorussians. High-altitude weather patterns moved the radioactive isotopes, with approximately 70% landing in Belarus.

Initially the Soviet authorities did not alert residents of Pripyat (the town near Chernobyl) that radioactive isotopes had been spread throughout the region and that their health was in grave danger. Finally, several days later, residents were evacuated, and at a later time, the City of Slavutych was built to accommodate the former residents of Chernobyl. Even today, the residents are heavily dependent on the power plant, and a regular train operates between the town and the 30 kilometer “Zone of Alienation.”

Catastrophic economic impact was felt throughout the region. A few essential facts and figures about economic repercussions include the following:
1. Both the Belarusian and Ukrainian governments estimate that losses over the 30 years following the accident will total approximately $383 billion;
2. 784,230 hectares of farmland along with 694,200 hectares of forest have been rendered unusable; and
3. 82 agricultural enterprises, 22 factories and 22 raw material deposits were removed from service.

A report from the Institute of Sociology indicated the prevalence of five trends: self-victimization, social exclusion, expectations of future support, inadaptability to new environment, as well as lack of initiative. Furthermore, while UNICEF has continually promoted universal salt iodization to reduce iodine deficiency, a disorder which can eventually lead to a depressed Intelligence Quotient and acceleration of latent Thyroid cancer, voluntary usage of iodized salt remains around 15 to 30%.

Almost 22 years later, nuclear technology provided during the Soviet Union remains in many of the former Soviet republics, thus providing for another Chernobyl-like disaster to occur. Furthermore, action by the international community to remedy the ramifications of the disaster has been very limited, to the point that many who reside within Belarus and Ukraine today continue to feel the effects of the disaster.

Featured below is a picture of the Chernobyl Power Plant in current form.

1 comment:

Evan Goldman said...

This was a really interesting post. I knew that Chernobyl was devastating in it's immediate area, however, I was completely unaware of how far away the disaster struck. Additionally, I had no idea that the losses from the disaster came anywhere close to $383 billion. Again, thanks for the post.