A Video About Life After the Chernobyl Disaster

Video by Alexander Belyakov: click here.

The Chernobyl disaster on April 26, 1986 is one of the most famous and controversial tragedies of our time. It happened at the Lenin Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant (which consisted of four reactors) in the Soviet Union. The Chernobyl plant is located only 93 km from Ukraine’s capital Kyiv. A one-off test of whether the turbine generator could continue providing electricity after the reactor scrammed caused the tragedy. The resulting explosion and fire at the Chernobyl plant sent a radioactive cloud over a large part of Europe. Emergency staff reported traces of pollution in Asia and North America, including Canada (Parliament of Canada 1986; Kerr et al. 1992). In the Soviet Union, the accident affected mostly Ukraine and neighboring Belarus and Russia. “Application of remediation on a limited scale will remain necessary for at least several decades (up to 2045–2050)” (Fesenko et al. 2006, 357). Kuchinskaya (2014), Nesterenko et al. (2009) researched the Chernobyl aftermath in Belarus.


Soviet authorities failed to take some very simple preventive actions. One of the biggest threats from the disaster was radioiodine carried long distances by clouds. Potassium iodide tablets should block radioiodine uptake by the thyroid. But authorities did not give them even to residents of Pripyat, a town near the Chernobyl nuclear plant. Face masks are also an inexpensive tool that can prevent inhalation of radioactive dust, but authorities did not distribute them. Officials even failed to warn people to stay inside. As a result, many children spent April 26, 1986 outdoors, unaware of the high radioactive pollution (Smith and Beresford 2005).

The Soviet authorities established the 30-km zone of mandatory resettlement. There is a difference from the agencies’ recommendations about “two sizes of zones in anticipation of qualitatively different radiation hazards: one with a radius of 10 miles (16.1 km) to address whole-body radiation exposure and another with a radius of 50 miles (80.5 km) aimed at preventing ingestion of radioactivity in food and water” (Geist 2014). Officials ordered nearly one million people to move out of areas with contaminated soil to avoid exposure to low levels of radiation. “Starting on May 2, 1986, about 50,000 cattle, 13,000 pigs, 3300 sheep, and 700 horses were evacuated together with the people”

The nuclear plants security became an exceptional issue in the military conflict with Russia in 2014-2015. There are threats posed to the nuclear power industry: from reactor sabotage with several ways to cause a core meltdown to nuclear terrorism and corruption (Yamamura 2014). The groups who have the capability to attack a nuclear plant are: paramilitary terrorist groups, undercover agents, professional criminals, insiders (disgruntled employees, people with mental disturbances, minor criminals), etc. According to the experts, “only few minutes may elapse between the beginning of an assault and the destruction of the reactor.”(Bukharin 1997, 33).

Andrii Deshchytsia, Minister for Foreign Affairs, addressed the potential threat to nuclear plants at the Hague Nuclear Security Summit. Bennett Ramberg, the US policy analyst, also warned: “In Ukraine, nuclear emissions could exceed both Chernobyl and Fukushima. Wartime conditions would prevent emergency crews from getting to an affected plant to contain radiological releases should reactor containments fail. And, with government services shut down in the midst of fighting, civilians attempting to escape radioactive contamination would not know what to do or where to go to protect themselves.” (Ramberg 2014). NATO experts have visited Ukraine to advise officials on the safety of nuclear power plants. One reason was possible destabilisation (Croft 2014). In May 2014, 40 armed men pretending to be Right Sector tried to access the Zaporizhia plant (Ukrinform 2014).

The military risks are mainly growing after a worst forest fire since 1992 in April 2015. Officials reported that arson was a probable cause of the fire about 20 kilometers from the Chernobyl site. Police ordered self-settlers’ evacuations after a fire affected 400 hectares of woodland in the 30-km zone in April 2015. The fire came as close as 5 km from the Chernobyl nuclear waste repository. The second massive fire broke on June 29, 2015.


November 2, 3, 4 and 5, 2015, a two-part public hearing on the application by Ontario Power Generation Inc. to renew, for a period of 13 years, its power reactor operating licence for the Darlington Nuclear Generating Station. Ref. 2015-H-04