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Nuclear Reactor Meltdown: The Chernobyl Disaster

Nuclear Reactor Meltdown: The Chernobyl Disaster

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Published by: Zimvi on Mar 12, 2011
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The nuclear reactor after the disaster. Reactor 4 (center). Turbine building (lower left). Reactor 3 (centerright).
Chernobyl disaster
Date
26 April 1986
Time
01:23:45 a.m (Moscow TimeUTC+3)
Location
Pripyat,Ukrainian SSR,Soviet Union
The abandoned city of Pripyatwith Chernobyl plant in the distanceRadio-operated bulldozers being tested prior to useAbandoned housing blocks inPripyatThe
Chernobyl disaster
was anuclear accidentthat occurred on 26 April 1986, at theChernobyl Nuclear Power PlantinUkraine(then in theUkrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, part of the Soviet Union
 
). It is considered the worstnuclear powerplant accident in history and is the onlylevel 7 event on theInternational Nuclear Event Scale.The disaster occurred on 26 April 1986, at reactor number four at theChernobylplant, near thetown of Pripyatin theUkrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, during a systems test. A sudden power output surge took place, and when an attempt was made for emergency shutdown, a more
 
extreme spike in power output occurred which led to a reactor vessel rupture and a series of explosions. This event exposed the graphite moderator components of the reactor to air and they ignited; the resulting fire sent a plumeof radioactivefalloutinto the atmosphere and over an extensive geographical area, includingPripyat. The plume drifted over large parts of the western SovietUnion,Eastern Europe,Western Europe, andNorthern Europe. Large areas inUkraine, Belarus, andRussiahad to be evacuated, with over 336,000 people resettled. According to official post-Soviet data,
about 60% of thefalloutlanded inBelarus. Despite the accident, Ukraine continued tooperate the remaining reactors at Chernobyl for manyyears. The last reactorat the site was closed down in 2000, 14 years after the accident.
[3]
The accident raised concernsabout thesafety of the Soviet nuclear power industry as well as nuclear power in general, slowing its expansion for a number of years while forcing the Sovietgovernment to becomeless secretive about its procedures.
[4][notes 1]
Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus have been burdenedwith the continuing and substantialdecontaminationand health care costs of the Chernobyl accident. Fifty deaths, all among the reactor staff and emergency workers, aredirectly attributed to the accident. It is estimated thatthere may ultimately be a total of 4,000 deaths attributable to the accident, due to increasedcancer risk.
[5]
Contents
[hide
 
]1 Accident
1.1 Conditions prior to the accident
1.2 Experiment and explosion
1.2.1 Radiation levels
1.2.2 Plant layout
1.2.3 Individual involvement
1.2.4 Deaths and survivors
1.3 Immediate crisis management
1.3.1 Radiation levels
1.3.2 Fire containment
1.3.2.1 Timeline
1.3.3 Evacuation of Pripyat
1.3.4 Steam explosion risk
1.3.5 Debris removal2 Causes
2.1 Operator error initially faulted
2.2 Operating instructions and design deficiencies found3 Effects
3.1 International spreadof radioactivity
3.2 Radioactive release
3.3 Health of plant workers and local people
3.4 Residual radioactivity in the environment
 
3.4.1 Rivers, lakes and reservoirs
3.4.2 Groundwater
3.4.3 Flora and fauna4 Chernobyl after the disaster5 Recovery process
5.1 Recovery projects
5.1.1 The Chernobyl Shelter Fund
5.1.2 The United Nations Development Programme
5.1.3 The International Project on the Health Effects of the ChernobylAccident6 Assessing the disaster's effects on human health 7 In popular culture8 Commemoration of the disaster
8.1 Chernobyl 209 See also10 Further reading
10.1 Documents11 Notes12 References13 External links
[edit] Accident
On 26 April 1986, at 01:23 a.m. (UTC+3
 
), reactor four suffered a catastrophic power increase,leadingto explosions in the core. This dispersed large quantities of radioactive fuel and corematerials into the atmosphere
[6]
:73
and ignited the combustiblegraphite moderator. The burning graphite moderator increased the emission of radioactive particles, carried by the smoke, as the reactorhad not been contained by any kind of hardcontainment vessel(unlike all Western plants).The accident occurred during an experiment scheduled to test a potential safetyemergency core coolingfeature, which took place during the normal shutdown procedure. Nuclearpower reactors require cooling, typically provided by coolant flow, to removedecay heat, even when not actively generating power. Pressurized Water Reactors use water flow at high pressure to move waste heat. Once the reactor isscrammed, the core still generates a significant amount of residual heat, which is initially about seven percent of the total thermaloutputof the plant. If not removed bycoolantsystems, the heat could lead tocore damage.
[7][8]
Following an emergency shutdown (scram
 
), reactor cooling is still required to keep thetemperature in the reactor core low enough to avoid fuel damage. The reactor consisted of about1,600 individual fuel channels, and each operational channel required a flow of 28 metric tons(28,000
 
liters (7,400
 
There had been concerns that in the event of apower grid failure, external power would not have been immediately available to run the plant'scoolingwater pumps. Chernobyl's reactors had three backupdiesel generators. Eachgenerator  required 15 seconds to start up but took 60–75 seconds
[6]
:15
to attain full speed and reach thecapacity of 5.5
 
MW required to run one main cooling water pump.
[6]
:30

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