Chernobyl - An Environmental Disaster
80 miles north of Kiev in the Northern Ukraine is a town that prior to 1986,
no-one had heard of.
Then on the 26 April 1986 the No 4 reactor at the Chernobyl
nuclear power station in the northern Ukraine, overheated, exploded, then went in to melt-down.
The world's worst nuclear accident released 190 tons of highly radioactive waste
material into the atmosphere exposing the people of Chernobyl to radioactivity 90 times greater than that from the
explosion of the Hiroshima atomic bomb.
Few details were given initially as the Soviet government attempted to cover up
the incident, however following a great deal of international pressure the full horror of the incident was
slowly released. A huge area around the plant was devastated by the explosion and the ensuing radioactive
contamination spread over the neighbouring countries. To this day there is nothing growing where once agriculture
was the main occupation of the common man. Further afield cattle still graze on contaminated land thus causing the
population to be continuously exposed to radiation via the food chain.
As part of the former Soviet Union, Belarussia lies in the shadow of
Chernobyl , the southern border being only 15 kilometres from the plant. The wind direction on the day of the
disaster caused the majority of the fallout to be directed towards the Belarusian towns of Gomel and Mogilev.
Of the radiation that was released by Chernobyl, over 70% fell onto the population of Belarus resulting in 800,000
children in Belarus and 380,000 in the Ukraine being at a high risk of contracting cancer or leukemia.
It will be another 24,000 years before the land is safe and the children no
At the meeting of the United Nations conference, Belarussian scientists have
declared this to be the greatest international ecological disaster in the history of humanity.
These innocent children are the victims of a nuclear catastrophe that has left a
legacy of radioactive contamination that will last for decades to come.
We are now told of a huge hangar like structure that is to be built around the crumbling
sarcophagus that houses the exploded reactor, starting in 2007. When it is built this structure will slide over the
reactor on tracks similar to train tracks, it will be bigger than a football pitch and taller than the statue of
liberty. The expected cost is many millions of dollars, and is expected to be finished in about 5 years. But before
that can be done, reactor fuel and radioactive waste buried haphazardly around the site will have to be excavated
and no-one knows what they will find down there.
If this construction is successful it should safeguard the site for the next 100 years, but
warnings have already been given that this is one of the most complicated constructions ever to be built and even
if it is built it could take up to 50 years to dismantle the sarcophagus and the estimated 200 tonnes of highly
radioactive material still inside it.
One cannot help but wonder if this disaster area could ever be proclaimed "safe", certainly not
for many generations to come. In the meantime the reactor continues to leak its poison into the atmosphere and when
the wind blows north re-contaminates the land and the people of Belarus. It is vital that charities such as ours
the world over continue to work on, and do more than they already do if we are to make a difference. At no point
can we say "enough is enough".