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37 years ago, Soviet negligence and lies caused the worst nuclear disaster of the 20th century. The emission of radiation transformed a formerly comfortable and thriving region into a restricted area. While radioactive materials were spreading across the continent, Soviet officials tried to conceal the disaster caused by reactor design flaws and human error. 

Photo: Volodymyr Repik / AP

Russia continues the Soviet tradition of not respecting any people and nature to achieve totalitarian goals. Last year, Russia temporarily seized the Chornobyl NPP, while the Zaporizhzhia NPP, the largest in Europe, is still occupied, threatening the whole world. For the first time in history, nuclear facilities are used in military actions.

April 26, 1986

On this day, a nuclear accident occurred at the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant, located in the north of Ukraine. On the day before, the fourth reactor of the NPP was supposed to be stopped to conduct an experiment. Although the actual technical circumstances did not correspond to the test plan, it was decided to proceed.

The experiment started on April 26 at 01:23, and the situation got out of control. Several minutes later, two explosions rang out. The reactor completely collapsed, and an intense fire broke out.

The first official local report about the disaster at the Chornobyl NPP appeared only 36 hours later when the radio of the neighboring city Prypiat announced the “temporary evacuation” of residents. 

Disinformation kills too

Despite the growing radiation level, the Soviet officials decided to organize a May 1 demonstration urging children and adults to parade on the streets, exposed to radiation.

The Soviet authorities hid information about the accident until foreign countries detected abnormal radiation levels in their territories. Totalitarian regime faked the medical histories of patients ill because of radiation, persecuted those who knew too much, and classified information about the disaster.

Photo: Gleb Garanich

The lie was deadly. Just imagine that for two days after the disaster, the world knew nothing about it. Millions of lives were affected by radiation across the continent.

Around 10 tons of nuclear fuel were released into the atmosphere because of the accident, turning a green area into a dangerous exclusion zone for decades.

Read more: Why did the forest in Chornobyl turn red?

Dealing with the long-lasting consequences

Both Ukraine, its people, and the world have paid a huge price to liquidate the consequences of the disaster. By joint efforts, the scale of the tragedy was reduced.

Over 600,000 people participated in the liquidation. Many firefighters and military personnel arrived “bare-handed” without any means of protection. They stopped another potential catastrophe, a hydrogen explosion, at the cost of their health and lives.

Photo: Ihor Kostin

The New Safe Confinement, a structure put to confine the remains of the reactor unit, was completed in Ukraine in 2019. It was designed to prevent the release of radioactive contaminants and protect the reactor.

The Chornobyl Radiation-Ecological Biosphere Reserve, the largest reserve in Ukraine, was created in 2016. Local flora and fauna typical for the area 100-200 years ago were restored. Now this is a thriving sanctuary for rare Ukrainian animals and plants.

Unfortunately, the ramifications of the Chornobyl tragedy, which affected millions, will be felt for hundreds of years. We all must do everything possible to prevent similar disasters from occurring in the future.

The New Safe Confinement.
Photo: Tim Porter

The world at risk again

Today, Russia’s war includes attacks on nuclear facilities. When Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022, the invaders captured the Chornobyl NPP and its personnel, destroyed the laboratories, and caused an increase in radiation levels by disturbing the radioactive dust.

Later this caused massive fires, and Ukrainian firefighters couldn’t reach the territory because of the invaders.

The Russian forces were kicked out of the territory during the Ukrainian counter-offensive in March 2022. Scientific and security enterprises in the Chornobyl zone have already returned to normal operation. Despite the damage brought by Russia to our land, the Chornobyl area will keep restoring and thriving under Ukrainian protection and care. It has a vast potential for scientific research in space and medicine. The unique experience of Ukrainian scientists and plant workers will be helpful in ensuring the safety of other NPP all over the world.

Nuclear blackmailing

The danger to global safety didn’t stop when Russia was forced to run from Chornobyl — the terrorist state keeps blackmailing the entire planet. The Zaporizhzhia NPP, the largest nuclear power plant in Europe and the 9th largest in the world, is still occupied by Russia. Russian forces continue to fire indiscriminate artillery near the power units and endanger the work of the Zaporizhzhia NPP.

Photo: Reuters

Russia’s blatant disrespect of international law shows that Russia has no intentions to cooperate or follow the agreements. The only way to restore nuclear security is for Russia to leave the ZNPP and return control of the power plant to Ukraine. The international community must act nowto avoid the disaster horrors of which we have already witnessed.