Erin and Andrew

Mr. Rowzee
Chernobyl Impact Magazine Article
Standards 901, 903, 904, 906

Nuclear Power:
A celebration of advancements and a closer look inside the Chernobyl disaster: The impacts and personal

This year marks the fifty-fifth anniversary of nuclear power plants, the first of which being built in 1956 named Calder Hall Power Station along the coast of Cumberland. Fifty-five years is a milestone, and an achievement that should be recognized and celebrated in terms of the growth made in technology and energy. But, being a rather new source of power, nuclear energy comes with risk, and has been looked down upon by the public because of its earliest flaws.

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Typically mistakes are forgotten as advancements are made, but it’s hard to get people to move on when they are convinced of these flaws regularly. Perhaps this stems from the popular series, The Simpsons. No one wants nuclear waste to be handled byexternal image 5556.simpsons_2D00_nuclear_2D00_reactor_2D00_250.gif bumbling idiots like Homer Simpson or controlled by a greedy billionaire that dumps it into public waters, resulting in the infamous three-eyed fish.

But the real culprit seems to be the news. Upon every opportunity, they update the public with the latest information regarding the rare occurrence of a nuclear disaster. Though this information is significant and should be explained to the public, it can give people a negative attitude towards nuclear power. The event that seemingly refuses to dissipate is the Chernobyl accident of 1986.

Chernobyl remains the worst nuclear power disaster in history, and continues to find its way to the front of the public’s argument against nuclear power plants. But before they can use this example against the nuclear power industry, they must understand the issue in its entirety. It is necessary to discuss all aspects of Chernobyl’s impact—from social and physical health, environment, and economy to its impact on the nuclear power industry in general—before deciding if the risk is too great when referring to the use of nuclear power today.

#1 Social Impact: It’s tough to wrap your mind around.

At least 333,000 people have been displaced since the accident; none of which were a bit happy. Even with government compensation, the victims still had, and continue to have sour feelings towards those responsible. Poverty risks were multiplied, deaths have outgrown the birth rates, and the mentality looks none-too bright. The victims do not have a place called home because they psychologically can’t bring themselves to go back to the pain that flipped their lives around. The population is dwindling and even high-pay social service jobs struggle to draw in numbers. Even if one was not infected by radiation, the anxiety of becoming radiated has diminished little through the victims. Being poverty stricken, the victims are forced to eat unhealthy food which only worsens the situation. Adult mortality has risen immensely, and life expectancy has depressingly decreased to 65 for women and 59 for men more so because of the social impact than the radiation itself.

Maxim from Polissya reflects on the emotional night of evacuation. They had to leave everything behind. Even their new school was looted and they were stripped of all hope of continuing their lives as they were before. Maxim describes his feelings towards his relocation, “But if the radiation has not beaten us yet, we have nothing to fear. But our souls cry, when we remember Polissya. It is as if our roots were cut.”

#2 Health Impact: It’s nothing to sneeze at.

It is true that two people died in the initial explosion and a total of 28 died within weeks from overexposure to radiation, all of which were plant personal and fireman that were all at the plant when the radiation was released. Not many others were that close. Thirty is a relatively lucky number for a major disaster, but radiation can cause extended issues in those that were father away. What’s strange is that odd health issues are being reported all over the area, but because of a lack of prior knowledge and a general understanding of health effects from radiation, these issues cannot be directly linked to the disaster.

Maria Kavatsiuk had a young girl, Marta, in 1987. Just before her second birthday she was diagnosed with leukemia and passed away. In 1989, they had a second child, Maria, who also contracted leukemia but thankfully survived. Leukemia had never run in their family before the accident. Although their case cannot be linked to radiation, their father, Vasyl, has no doubt in his mind that it was caused by the accident.

Eugenia Dudarova was three years old when the reactor exploded. At age thirteen, her best friend, and another child exposed to radiation from Chernobyl, was diagnosed with sarcoma. The pain her friend endured crushed Eugenia, and all she wanted was for her to be healthy again. Death was inevitable for her dear friend Olga, but she still tried desperately to find her relief. Doctors refused to give her morphine, since they were short on the drug and could not use it on a dying child. Another doctor bluntly stated that the child should be taken home to die. Eugenia would visit her frequently and stoke her back and over her tumor. Eugenia has never been quite the same since Olga passed away. It’s as if half her life disappeared. She struggles to cope with herexternal image thyroid%20tumor.jpg loss, and questions the risk of nuclear power. She often wonders if she awaits the same fate as her friend.

There was one noticeable change across the entire effected population, and that was a definite increase in thyroid cancer. But, as terrible as it sounds, it can be treated and is usually not fatal if diagnosed early enough. There are several illnesses that are reported by those who were exposed, but unfortunately, more research is needed to connect them to radiation. The good news is that there have been no reports of fertility or birth issues. As for the increased reports of congenital malformations associated with radiation, it appears to be due to improved reporting rather than Chernobyl. We can only hope for the best for these victims in the future.

#3 Environmental Impact: No world, no life.

Although people were able to evacuate, the Chernobyl accident contaminated miles of helpless land, affecting the ecosystems and making its way to the general public. Radiation severely contaminated about 1,660 square miles of land having been carried by winds. This area was completely evacuated of all people, but there was nothing that could be done for plant and wildlife. Radiation affected about 2,776 square miles more with a less violent concentration of contaminants. Among the wildlife exposed in these regions, scientists observed malformations occurring in the first generation of the specie’s offspring, but did not notice any patterns or hereditary effects. In fact, in the less contaminated regions, scientists found the biodiversity to be thriving at this time. This is said to be true because humans were taken out of the equation in these areas.

Unfortunately, some of the land exposed to much more radiation, about 18 miles surrounding the plant, cannot say the same. In this section is what they call the red forest. In this region, the trees were exposed to so much radiation that the leaves turned red and the trees died. There is no hope for wildlife in this area at least until the radiation has time to decay.

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But despite improvements above ground, radiation continues to be an issue in soil and groundwater. Crops take in excess amounts of radiation that has been displaced in the soil and water over time. Although the amount of radiation people are ingesting is reducing as time goes on, it can still pose as a problem that requires monitoring. For example, eating fish can be increasingly dangerous for humans because of bioaccumulation. Not only is that person ingesting radiation from their meal, but from their fish’s meal and so on. Although the situation improves with time, there is still a long way to go before nature can heal itself.

#4 Economic Impact: The bottom line.

While inflation was at an unstable level and exchange rates between European countries such as the USSR, Ukraine, and Belarus, who were deeply affected by the Chernobyl accident, the estimated damage cost for the following two decades is estimated at hundreds of billions of dollars. The impact decimated the economy of any populations in the exclusion zone, which was the reach of the extent of danger. Citizens had to be moved, dropping not only the impact zone, but the cities where refugees fled. Agriculture suffered a massive blow with the loss of so much farmland; this in turn caused the inflation on produce to sky-rocket with demand rising and supply plummeting. While all of this is heart-breaking information, the grass is ironically greener on the other side. Human lives are priceless and need to be protected, the science community illustrated that to the world and now every year Ukraine dedicates roughly 6 percent of the national budget on Chernobyl-related benefits. The effects are still visible today with smaller agricultural towns still struggling to rid themselves of radiation-tampered food and land, but this should be used as motivation, and it is, the world now invests more money into the safety of nuclear energy to prevent the loss of money and lives for the world.

With times so tough, Andrei from Polissya finds it hard to cope with his relocated home with such little money. Andrei is an older man and receives enough money to buy bread and survive on his pension. Unfortunately, there are very few jobs and even capable and experienced young men must rely on their parent’s pensions for food. Andrei has five dependents and two daughters that need help and it became nearly impossible to do so.

#5 Science and Technological Impact: Live and learn.

Diagram of Chernobyl 4 Reactor
Diagram of Chernobyl 4 Reactor

Even though the Chernobyl incident had a tremendous long-term impact on social and physical health, the environment, and the economy, it does not represent the industry at its finest. In fact, Chernobyl represents an operation surrounding an unstable reactor design run by inexperienced operators during the Cold War with a lack of safety and training. This plant spelled disaster from the start, and it was only a matter of time before the design failed. With that said, the design was unique, and the accident had little chance of occurring anywhere else. Chernobyl isn’t the future of nuclear power, it was a trial used to advance plants and make them the best option in energy.

After the disaster, many developments were made in the science and technology of nuclear power. To start, a heavy set of safety regulations were made to ensure that almost anything that could go wrong can be handled. Many people view more regulations as being a sign of danger. But in reality, these regulations are necessary to keep the process safe, much like that of air travel and automobiles. Yes, these would all be extremely dangerous without regulations, but that is why they are implemented. With that being
Diagram of functioning power plant today
Diagram of functioning power plant today
said, there is nothing to worry about. Also, the accident sparked collaboration between Eastern and Western countries to invest in the improvements of their plants. By conversing with each other, nuclear power advanced at a faster pace. Directly related to what went wrong at Chernobyl, all reactors were designed to be much more stable at low power, have automatic shut-down mechanisms that operated quickly, and automated inspection equipment. Now, a repetition of this accident would be nearly impossible.

#6 Nuclear Power Today: Risky Business.

With all of this suffering, it isn’t difficult to postulate why nuclear energy is a poor choice, but you can’t succeed if you don’t take risks. The fact is, nuclear energy has become one of the cleanest and safest methods of energy, and this is all thanks to attempts in the field of science. After the Chernobyl disaster, four million dollars were spent in order to improve the remaining reactors at the plant, and thousands work on site within acceptable radiation levels. A disaster of this proportion is nearly impossible with the advancements in the field today.

Chernobyl is a difficult event to let go because of its long term effects on society, but the truth is, nuclear power is one of the best options we have. Very few people, compared to the critics of nuclear power, think twice about the hundreds of coal miners that are risking disease and death for an energy source that pollutes are environment. That's the real disaster.

Although we must never forget about Chernobyl and all those impacted by radiation, we must celebrate our achievements in science and in energy these past fifty-five years. Yes, the consequences of an accident may be great, but the risk is not as terrible as many seem to believe. As a human race, we must trust ourselves and move forward along with technology in honor of those who were affected by the Chernobyl disaster.


"Chernobyl | Chernobyl Accident | Chernobyl Disaster." World Nuclear Association | Nuclear Power - a Sustainable Energy Resource. Web. 18 May 2011. <>.
"Chernobyl: 3. How Has the Environment Been Affected by the Chernobyl Accident?" GreenFacts - Facts on Health and the Environment. Web. 18 May 2011. <>.
"Chernobyl, the Accident Scenario and Its Global Impact." Welcome to ENS - European Nuclear Society. Web. 18 May 2011. <>.
"Comparing Alternative Engery Forms." Oracle ThinkQuest. Web. 18 May 2011. <>.
"Revisiting Chernobyl: A Nuclear Disaster Site of Epic Proportions | PBS NewsHour | March 29, 2011 | PBS." PBS: Public Broadcasting Service. Web. 18 May 2011. <>.
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