Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant
THE ABANDONED POWER PLANTS IN THE UKRAINE
The ‘Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant’ is a decommissioned nuclear power station near the city of Pripyat in Ukraine. It is situated 15 km northwest of the city of Chernobyl and 16 km from the Belarus border.
Reactor 4 was the power station where the Chernobyl disaster in 1986 occurred. The disaster was the worst nuclear power plant accident in history.
The event occurred during a late-night safety test which simulated a plant blackout. In fact, safety systems were intentionally turned off for this test. A combination of bad reactor design and operators working contrary to the checklist for the test, eventually resulted in uncontrolled reaction conditions. Water became steam, generating a destructive explosion and fire.
36 hours after the accident, Soviet officials finally enacted a 10-kilometer exclusion zone. That resulted in the rapid evacuation of 49 thousand people, primarily from Pripyat. Meanwhile, ash plumes and subsequent fallout filled the sky. As a result, the evacuation zone was increased from 10 to 30 km about one week after the accident. Approximately 100,000 km² of land was significantly contaminated with fallout. The worst hit regions were Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia. In the meantime, slighter levels of contamination were detected over all of Europe.
The battle to contain the contamination and prevent a bigger catastrophe, involved over 500 thousand workers. The costs were estimated on 18 billion rubles. During the accident itself, 31 people died. The long-term effects such as cancers are still being investigated.
Reactors 5 and 6
The completion of the first reactor in 1977 was followed by Reactor 2 in 1978. Reactor 3 was built in 1981 and 4 in 1983. Two more reactors, 5 and 6, capable of producing 1,000 MW each, were under construction at the time of the accident. Reactor 5 was about 70% complete at the time of the accident. It was scheduled to start operating on November 7, 1986. However, the works were halted on January 1, 1988. The tower cranes and other machinery were left behind. Furthermore, a 6th reactor was planned in a new block of buildings, scheduled to be completed in 1994.
Reactor 1, 2 and 3
Following the accident, questions arose about the future of the plant and its eventual fate. The Ukrainian government continued to let the three remaining reactors operate because of an energy shortage in the country. However, in October 1991, a fire broke out in the turbine building of Reactor 2. The authorities declared the reactor damaged beyond repair, and consequently it was taken offline. Reactor 1 was decommissioned in November 1996 and on 15 December 2000 President Leonid Kuchma personally turned off Reactor 3 in an official ceremony.
The Chernobyl Power Plant site should be clean by 2065. The photos are taken around Reactor 4, inside Reactor 5, inside the cooling towers and all around the site of the power plants. I visited the exclusion zone in 2014 and 2015. More reports on Chernobyl and its lost places are on my other website: www.chernobyl.one.
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