U.S. History 1877-Present 13.5: Nuclear Power
If you're looking for the perfect vacation spot/abandoned nuclear power plant/giant disaster area, Chernobyl just might be the perfect place for you!
|U.S. History||U.S. History 1877-Present|
In 1986, just north of Kiev in Ukraine, the Chernobyl power plant boasted four active [Cherobyl highlighted on a map]
nuclear reactors, with a fifth under construction.
In April of that year, one of the nuclear reactors did what everyone working at a nuclear [Satellite images of Chernobyl]
power plant fears most—it exploded. [The power plant explodes]
The power plant was in Soviet territory, and reactors were designed from faulty models.
The reactors lacked containment structures, or a failsafe that would automatically deactivate
the reactor if it got too hot.
Even a giant potholder would’ve been a start. [Knitted potholder appears]
The immediate cause of the accident was a failed experiment.
Engineers were attempting to see if they could draw energy from the turbine generator of
one of the reactors to supply emergency power in case of a power loss.
The experiment was poorly executed…to say the least.
When engineers didn’t get results they were gunning for… [Engineers in the control room]
…they started messing with the safety features of the reactor to amplify the amount of energy
needed to conduct the experiment.
With the safety controls and backup generator disabled, the engineers realized they were [Sirens go off and flashing red lights in the control room]
in trouble…deep, deep doggy doo-doo.
The energy level began to spike majorly, and before long the reactor's core was drawing
in elements of the reactor's structure.
The added mass increased the power of the nuclear reaction until the reactor exploded. [Diagram of reactor explosion]
Like a piñata full of... what's it called... oh yeah, hellfire.
Not that you’d want at your child’s tenth birthday party although it would like kinda cool.
Eyewitnesses recall flames and burning objects flying through the air. [Flames flying off from the power plant]
Flaming shrapnel from the explosion caused even more fires around the facility. [Footage from a helicopter of the reactor on fire]
The reactor itself resembled a crater, burned to evaporation.
Experts have estimated that the nuclear fallout of the explosion was equivalent to ten Hiroshimas. [Ten nuclear bombs appear]
And as non-experts, we can tell you that even one Hiroshima… is not good. [Mushroom cloud from explosion forming]
People hightailed it out of Chernobyl pretty quickly after the disaster. [People running away]
The government evacuated 115,000 residents that year, and another 220,000 in subsequent
Having seen what happened in Hiroshima, people knew they didn't want to stick around for [Footage of devastation in Hiroshima]
the aftermath of a nuclear explosion.
Anyway, the force of the explosion, combined with wind, blew radioactive gas and dust over
a much larger area than just Chernobyl. [Map of radioactive gas spreading]
Yeah…the nuclear debris got the full Euro-tour.
The toxic clouds made their way to Finland, Sweden, and much of central and southern Europe. [The trail of gas shown across Europe]
So what was the death toll?
Two plant workers died the night of the explosion.
Luckily, the plant was mostly empty of employees, since it was such a late hour. [A dark night with a full moon]
Within the first few months following the accident, 29 recovery workers died from acute radiation
However, the immediate population of Chernobyl was largely spared from extreme doses of immediate radiation. [Man asks a woman if she is dead from the radiation yet]
There’s been a ton of speculation about the long-term cancer-causing effects of the
The total increase in cancer looks to be 2 to 3% for the most heavily contaminated areas…
…decreasing for outlying areas that were better contained.
Perhaps the biggest concern came from the increase in thyroid cancer and disorders, [Graph showing the cases of thyroid cancer]
particularly among children who consumed milk from radiation-affected cows. [Glass of milk and a cow, glow in the dark]
After the accident, the Chernobyl power plant was gradually abandoned. [Tumbleweed blows past the power plant]
At first, the remaining reactors were restarted, but by the year 2000, all had been shut down.
Interestingly, the abandoned plant has since become a tourist destination. [Photos of people at the plant]
Guided tours provide background and even a free radiation screening upon exiting the
We don't know what could be more romantic… than possible radiation exposure on your honeymoon… [People wearing face masks outside the power plant]