This Day in History: April 26
- Published: Apr 26, 2016, 4 AM
The 1986 nuclear disaster at Chernobyl in what is now Ukraine highlighted the dangers of nuclear power in the most dramatic way.
The world’s worst nuclear disaster (in terms of cost and casualties) occurred when an explosion and fire released large quantities of radioactive particles into the atmosphere, which spread over much of the western USSR and Europe.
The Chernobyl accident of April 26, 1986, was the result of a flawed reactor design, in an operation with inadequately trained personnel. It was a symptom, not of broader safety issues with nuclear power, but of specific shortcomings of knowledge in the then-sequestered Soviet Union.
The accident destroyed the Chernobyl 4 reactor, killing 31 operators and firemen within three months and several further deaths later. One person was killed immediately and a second died in hospital soon after as a result of injuries received.
However, the Chernobyl disaster was a unique event and the only accident in the history of commercial nuclear power where radiation-related fatalities occurred.
The ecological impact was immediate, with one area of forest earning the name Red Forest from dying foliage that turned rusty red. Wildlife rebounded, but research into the long-term effects continues.
In 1996, the young, free country of Ukraine marked the anniversary with a pair of coins, an Uncirculated copper-nickel 200,000- karbovanet coin and a Proof .925 fine silver 2,000,000-karbovanet coin.
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