Which Countries Were Most Affected By Chernobyl?

By Antonia Čirjak on March 19 2020 in Environment

On the 26th of April 1985, an accident happened that changed the world forever. Image credit: Sergey Kamshylin / Shutterstock.com
On the 26th of April 1985, an accident happened that changed the world forever. Image credit: Sergey Kamshylin / Shutterstock.com
  • The Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant Disaster is considered by many to be one of the worst nuclear disasters in the entire human history.
  • The countries that were the most affected by the disaster are Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia.
  • The disaster had a lasting effect on the health of the people living in these countries, as well as the plants and animals.

On the 26th of April 1985, an accident happened that changed the world forever. We are talking about the disaster that occurred at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine. A lot of people consider it to be one of the worst nuclear disasters in the entire human history. The reason this accident happened was because of an error during a regular safety test on one of the reactors in the plant.

The test was supposed to simulate a power outage so that the workers know how to prepare for such a situation if it ever really happened. However, the power dropped extremely low, which was not the plan, and the reactor became unstable. This caused a nuclear chain reaction, which started the catastrophe. Huge amounts of energy were released, and the reactor core got damaged. A large fire broke out, and dangerous amounts of radiation were released into the environment. This continued for nine days.

Evacuation Did Not Help

People were evacuated from neighboring cities, but that did not stop the radiation from causing various diseases to everyone exposed to it. A large number of people died of cancer caused by radiation. More radiation was released with this disaster than with the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Japan, during World War II.

Chernobyl is basically a ghost town now, but the city that was the most affected by this accident was Pripyat. However, the effects of Chernobyl went beyond the national borders, significantly impacting the world. Here are some other countries that were affected by the disaster in Chernobyl.

Ukraine

Naturally, Ukraine was immensely affected by the disaster seeing as how it is the country where it happened. The entire country was not extremely contaminated. However, certain parts of Ukraine, along with Russia and Belarus, were significantly contaminated with cesium-137, the radioactive isotope of cesium.

Aerial view at sunrise of the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra - one of the main symbol of Kiev, Ukraine
Aerial view at sunrise of the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra - one of the main symbol of Kiev, Ukraine

Almost 400,000 people lived in these highly contaminated areas. However, the 116,000 people that lived the closest to the power plant in the so-called “Exclusion Zone” were immediately evacuated to non-contaminated areas. In the following years after the disaster, 220,000 people more were evacuated. Naturally, many people got severely affected by radiation and suffered from cancer. 

The death toll of the disaster was greatly exaggerated at the time, with some claiming that tens of thousands of people lost their lives in the catastrophe that ensued after the reactor core got damaged. However, the death toll that we can attribute to the reactor and its radiation is not that big. Still, that does not mean that the diseases people contracted are less tragic.

Ukraine never forgot the Chernobyl disaster, and today, the town of Chernobyl is a ghost city. However, it is a popular tourist spot, with people lining up to visit the place where one of the most notorious nuclear disasters in human history happened. There are still some older people living there, although scientists believe that the area will not become entirely safe for another 20,000 years. The wider Chernobyl area is relatively safe, although that is hard to determine with complete certainty. 

Russia 

More parts of Europe were contaminated, but the majority of the more severe contamination was located in Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia. Large quantities of radioactive materials that were released from the reactor could not have traveled that far, so the most damage was done to these three countries. Russia is the largest of the three, did not have problems evacuating its citizens, and the majority of the radioactive materials quickly transformed into more stable, non-radioactive materials. Of course, some exceptions remained radioactive for a longer period of time.

Moscow,Russia,Red square,view of St. Basil's Cathedral
Moscow, Russia, Red square, view of St. Basil's Cathedral

Agriculture was affected by the contamination, and there are still concerns about some rural regions having contaminated crops, meat, and milk. The radioactivity of forest food products in areas that were in closer proximity to the blast is still expected to remain high for several more decades.

The disaster contaminated even the fish, and it is worth noting that some are slightly radioactive to this day. Some lakes are still highly radioactive, mostly those that are enclosed. Of course, many animals living within an 18-mile radius of the site experienced an increase in mortality and a severe decrease in reproduction.

Belarus

A large part of the radiation from the Chernobyl disaster was blown north to Belarus. The country was devastated by the fallout from this nuclear disaster. Some believe it to be the country that was the most poisoned by Chernobyl. 

White Government Parliament Building And Lenin Statue on Independence Square in Minsk, Belarus
White Government Parliament Building And Lenin Statue on Independence Square in Minsk, Belarus

Belarus is an extremely flat country, which means the radiation could travel throughout the land undisturbed. It took years for the country to recover, and that it did. In recent times, Belarus started building its own nuclear power plant, which seems weird, given everything that happened in the past. However, many people in Belarus are still feeling the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster. A large number of citizens have cancer and other health issues. 

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