The Keys to the Chernobyl Disaster

Chernobyl

Chernobyl

 

The Keys to the Chernobyl Disaster

Celebrating the airing of Chernobyl: Aftermath, a Ukrainian series about an impossible love set against the backdrop of the 1986 nuclear disaster, we show you the key elements that derived in the accident and its consequences:

1. Low Power and little communication

The accident, which occurred at reactor 4 of the plant in the early morning of April 26, 1986, resulted when operators took action in violation of the plant’s procedures. Operators ran the plant at very low power, without adequate safety precautions and without properly coordinating or communicating the procedure with safety personnel.

2. Sudden Heat Increase

The power surge caused a sudden increase in heat, which ruptured some of the pressure tubes containing fuel. The hot fuel particles reacted with water and caused a steam explosion, which lifted the 1,000-metric-ton cover off the top of the reactor, causing a second explosion and exposing the reactor core to the environment. The fire burned for 10 days, releasing a large amount of radiation into the atmosphere.

3. Different Characteristics

The reactor built at Chernobyl is an RBMK reactor, which was never built by any country outside the USSR because it had characteristics that were rejected everywhere outside the Soviet Union. The most important of these features was its inherent instability, especially on startup and shutdown. The reactor used graphite where American reactors use water. Thirty-one people died within a few weeks of the accident from the initial steam explosion, exposure to radiation and thermal burns, and one due to cardiac arrest.

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