The Chernobyl accident in 1986 was the result of a flawed reactor design that was operated with inadequately trained personnel. An explosion and fire released large quantities of radioactive particles into the atmosphere, which spread over much of the western USSR and Europe. The Soviet government also cut down and buried about a square mile of pine forest near the plant to reduce radioactive contamination at and near the site. Chernobyl’s three other reactors were subsequently restarted but all eventually shut down for good, with the last reactor closing in 1999.

The accident destroyed the Chernobyl 4 reactor, killing 30 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. Another person is reported to have died at the time from a coronary thrombosisc. Acute radiation syndrome (ARS) was originally diagnosed in 237 people on-site and involved with the clean-up and it was later confirmed in 134 cases. Of these, 28 people died as a result of ARS within a few weeks of the accident. Nineteen more subsequently died between 1987 and 2004 but their deaths cannot necessarily be attributed to radiation exposured. Nobody off-site suffered from acute radiation effects although a large proportion of childhood thyroid cancers diagnosed since the accident is likely to be due to intake of radioactive iodine falloutd. Furthermore, large areas of Belarus, Ukraine, Russia and beyond were contaminated in varying degrees. See also sections below and Chernobyl Accident Appendix 2: Health Impacts.

The Chernobyl disaster was the worst nuclear power plant accident in history in terms of cost and casualties. It is one of only two classified as a level 7 event (the maximum classification) on the International Nuclear Event Scale, the other being the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in 2011.

Reactors 5 & 6, Chernobyl, Ukraine

Reactors 5 & 6, Chernobyl, Ukraine by Ferry Vermeer

Chernobyl Monument and Reactor

Chernobyl Monument and Reactor by Matt Shalvatis


CHERNOBYL: Bumper by Des Gould

School in Chernobyl

School in Chernobyl by Michael Kötter

The Playground Annex

The Playground Annex by Trey Ratcliff

The Dead Ferris Wheel of Chernobyl

The Dead Ferris Wheel of Chernobyl by Trey Ratcliff

Nuclear Winter in Chernobyl

Nuclear Winter in Chernobyl

Chernobyl's Abandoned Apartments

Chernobyl’s Abandoned Apartments

The abandoned ferris in Ukraine, Pripyat

The abandoned ferris in Ukraine, Pripyat by Barry Mangham

Shrine of Electricity in Ukraine, Pripyat

Shrine of Electricity in Ukraine, Pripyat by AndreasS