Chernobyl - 25 Years After the Worst Nuclear Disaster in History
On April 26, 1986 the world’s worst nuclear catastrophe happened in the Ukraine. A nuclear reactor at the Chernobyl power plant exploded. The radiation that escaped in Chernobyl was four hundred times the amount that was released by the atomic bomb that was dropped over Hiroshima at the end of World War II. About 100,000 people had to leave their homes immediately after the explosion.
Neighboring villages had to be evacuated and up to today nobody has been allowed to live within 30 km of the plant. Pripyat , founded in 1970 to house the workers of the power plant , has become a ghost town. Before the disaster 50,000 people lived in modern apartment buildings. Today it is completely deserted with cars still parked on the streets. Radiation levels are still so high that nobody will be able to live here for the next one to two hundred years.
An area of about 150000 square kilometers was contaminated by radioactive cesium, which has a half life of 30 years. Most of the nuclear fallout came down on Bellarus, Russia and the Ukraine itself.
The Chernobyl disaster site today
25 years after the disaster the cleanup of Chernobyl is still going on. There is still almost 200 tons of radioactive material stored in the sarcophagus, which was built in only six months after the explosion in 1986. Today it is slowly breaking apart and cracks are letting radioactive material escape.
The Ukrainian government has promised to build a new shelter that will replace the old sarcophagus. This cover is expected to last for over a century but it is still not clear where the Ukrainians will get 800 million Euros to finance such a huge dome.
Debate is still continuing on how many people died in the Chernobyl disaster. 31 people were killed as a direct result of the accident. 30 more died of radiation sicknessdue to the blast. Thousands of cases of cancer have been detected in people who were children at that time.
The population in the area is still in danger. Greenpeace claims that thousands of Ukrainians are eating food that is contaminated by the nuclear blast although Ukrainian food ministry officials say that food is regularly checked. The environmental organization says milk, mushrooms and berries in the whole region will stay polluted for many decades to come.
Today, more and more tourists are coming to northern Ukraine. Tour guides in Pripyat show westerners the homes that they lived in before the explosion. Buses take them to the nuclear power station but stop a few hundred yards from the disaster site where they can spend 15 minutes on taking pictures.
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- although = while
- berry = small soft fruit with small seeds
- catastrophe = disaster; event that kills many people or destroys large areas and buildings
- century = a hundred years
- cesium = a soft silver white metal; splitting a cesium atom produces a radioactive element
- check = control
- claim = to say that something is true
- clean-up = to get rid of unwanted material or waste
- contaminate = to make material dirty or dangerous by putting chemicals or poisons into it
- continue = go on
- cover = something that is put on or over an object
- crack = small lines
- decade = a period of ten years
- deserted = empty; with nothing or nobody in it
- disaster = catastrophe, tragedy
- dome = round building
- environmental = about the world around us
- escape = to set free
- evacute =to send people away from a dangerous place to somewhere where it is safe
- even though = while
- finance = get money to build
- found –founded = to start something new
- government = the people who rule a country
- half life = the number of years it takes radioactive material to lose half of its radioactivity
- immediately = at once; quickly
- level = amount
- mushroom = simple plant that grows on the ground; it has a stem and is round and some can be eaten
- official = someone who is in a high position in an organization or a country
- pollute = to make something dirty so that you cannot use it any more
- power plant , power station = building that produces electricity
- radiation = form of energy that comes from nuclear reactors; in large amounts it is very harmful to your body and can kill you
- release = to set free
- sarcophagus = in old times it was a stone box used to keep dead bodies: here: a building that does not let anything escape from it
- shelter = cover, protection
- site = location
- store = save, keep