Chernobyl, Ukraine, 1986

On Saturday, April 26, 1986, at approximately 1:24 a.m., Reactor No. 4 at the V. I. Lenin Atomic Power Station near Chernobyl, Ukraine, exploded.  First, a steam explosion blew a one-thousand-ton plate off the top of the reactor. Two or three seconds later, a second hydrogen gas explosion followed. Massive quantities of radioactive particles and gases were expelled into the atmosphere. Valery Khodomchuk, an operator standing near the reactor core, died instantly. A second operator, Vladimir Shashenka, was close to the reactor hall. He was found alive, but died within hours.

The rescue workers — known as liquidators — and those living near Chernobyl suffered the worst effects from the fallout. Radioactive clouds that formed from the release traveled throughout Europe spreading radioactive elements in their path, threatening millions.  Thousands died from the disaster, and thousands of children suffered thyroid cancer from exposure to the radioactive material.  An area 30 kilometers (18 miles) around Chernobyl remains to this day dead from radioactive material, and the nuclear reactor continues to pose a significant threat.  It was the world’s worst environmental disaster.  Until global climate change.

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