The tragedy of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant eruption occurred on April 26, 1986. One of the four reactors of the plant exploded due to a failure of the cooling system during a test, leading to a fire that could not be extinguished for ten days.
The Russian people were not aware of the accident until seven to 10 days after the fact. Numerous May Day parades took place, increasing the number of people exposed to the radiation. The results and numbers of victims of this tragedy are undetermined. Thirty one workers died caught in the explosion and the fire to follow. A recent announcement doubling the death toll (to a mere 56 people) smells like a cheap bone to be thrown in the faces of zealous truth searchers. In reality, many more people have died shortly after having been exposed to the contamination area (helicopter pilots, firemen, scientists, etc.) Many adults and, more so, children are still showing an increased rate of thyroid cancer, blamed on the radiation exposure. An estimate of 90,000 square miles in Belarus, Ukraine and Russia was contaminated with dangerous levels of radiation, blown by the winds. More so, much of the Chernobyl emissions have been carried over to Northern Europe as well. A curious fact is that while the Chernobyl tragedy was still being covered up during the first week, Swedish experts discovered an increase in the radiation levels and were looking for a leak at their own nuclear plants. The traces of Chernobyl can still be found today in Northern Ireland, Sweden and even Saudi Arabia and will be evident for thousands of years to come.
After the accident went public, the Soviet government established an "exclusion zone" with a 19 miles radius and evacuated over 130,000 people from their homes after the accident, forcing them to leave their lives, homes and belongings behind. Today, the exclusion zone is still in place, but many people (mostly elderly) have illegally returned to their homes. During the seven months after the 1986 explosion, the engineers quickly put together a massive concrete-and-steel "sarcophagus" to cover the reactor. However, the structure was meant to last no more than 20-30 years and has deteriorated significantly. It is still believed that 90% of the radioactive material remains inside the reactor, making it a slow-release poison in its current state. The plant was officially shut down in 2000, after Ukrainian government faced much pressure from the international community. New plans have been made to construct a shell to cover the reactor and its radioactive contents for at least a hundred years. The project is set for completion by 2010.
The danger of this tragedy lies not just in Ukraine alone; it is a tragedy that concerns the entire world. Some of the nuclear elements released in the air on that day have a half-life of hundreds and thousands of years and have spread far beyond the borders of Ukraine. Scientists have estimated that the area of Chernobyl will not be suitable to re-settlement for at least 300 years, continuing to shift the radiation elements from air to soil and water (a scientifically proven fact by now). The radiation has affected the genetic makeup of animals living in the area, who still migrate and interact with other species in the "safe" areas, without any sufficient research or information about the consequences of this.
An even more relevant problem today is that plans of exporting large amounts of radioactive waste to nuclear accident sites have been made and are supported by the UN International Atomic Energy Agency. Instead of providing help and research to restore or contain the damage, such zones are being turned into sacrificial grounds. A question here that should be raised to the international community: what values and principles allow such actions towards humanity, in exchange to striking a profitable business deal? The destruction that nuclear radioactivity carries presents a global risk, for nuclear waste does not stick to political borders.