Although the events occurred at the ChNPP was not the first at this facility, the repercussions turned out fatal. The incident was provoked by violations committed during conducting experiments on an emergency supply system from a turbine generator operating by inertia.
It was planned to previously shut down the emergency cooling system during testing. However, the staff couldn’t safely neutralize the reactor. There are a number of factors which made it impossible to counteract the problem. Consequently, this accident wasn’t the only, but the largest man-made tragedy in the history of nuclear power production.
Events began to unfold at 1:00 on the 25th of April, when the staff of Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station stopped the 4th reactor for routine maintenance. They planned to fully check the state of equipment and test the “turbine-generator-rotor-run-out”, which wasn’t an exception.
Till the morning, the 4th unit’s power was decreased by 50%. However, in order to optimize the testing process it had to be reduced to the index of 23-30%. At 2 p.m. The emergency cooling system of the power unit was turned off at 2 p.m., though the capacity was no longer reduced for another nine hours at a request of the Kyiv power facility supervisor.
The first problem occurred around 0:28, due to the improper work of the operator who didn’t keep the required level of the reactor’s power, and they fell to 30 MW. They could stabilize it at 01:00 at the mark of two hundred MW instead of the required seven hundred – one thousand MW.
Several critical mistakes were made in further preparation. Firstly, the systems for shutting down the power unit in case of emergency, such as water shortage or excessive steam pressure were blocked in a rude bypass of the rules. Secondly, it was obligatory to close the reactor due to an extremely reduced reserve of reactivity. However, this wasn’t done either.
The next step of the experiment – shutting down the valves and blocking the supply of steam to the generator led to the immediate growth of the vapor concentration and consequently – increase of the thermal power of the power unit. Nevertheless, the red emergency button could no longer save the situation, since the active protection rods were damaged and blocked by the steam pressure. Hence, the 4th power unit stated to self-accelerate, a few seconds past there were heard two massive explosions.
A few minutes later, fire service guards arrived at the explosion site and began to put out the fire. It is worth mentioning that the firefighters were only equipped with gloves, helmets and canvas robes, accordingly got enormous doses of radiation. The fire was completely stopped at 6:00 a.m. By that time, a lot of firefighters were already transported to the hospital unit-126 with signs of severe radioactive exposure.
Already by 12:00, authorities had made a decision to start the evacuation to Moscow. Firstly it was said to transfer the firefighters and the staff of Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant who suffered from radiation the most, enumerating 134 people. Twenty eight of them died within several months. At that time the fact of the 4th reactor destruction and radioactive contamination was confirmed. Around 11 p.m. there was created the commision in the aim of investigating the causes of the accident and liquidating its repercussions. There was prepared transport to evacuate the whole population living in that area.
Around 2 a.m. on the 27th, nearly 150 buses and trucks reached Chernobyl together with 2 diesel trains which were located at the Yanov railway station. At 7:00, there was announced to begin the evacuation of civilians from the Chernobyl zone. At 13:10, the evacuation was announced by radio, and it itself began at 14:00. In just one day, transport has taken out more than 45 thousand local residents. To understand the scale – in just 1986, 116 000 inhabitants were evacuated.
The first official information about the accident was broadcast on the 28th April evening through the media. The radiation level in Chernobyl then was about 20 micro-roentgens per sec.
It is believed that even in our time, radiation in the Exclusion Zone can harm human’s health. Nowadays this doesn’t remain a problem any more. The radiation level in Chernobyl now is almost everywhere safe and is actually 24 micro-roentgens per hour, when the harmless rate is twice as much.
If you want to visit a region that has seen the world’s largest nuclear disaster, we invite you to an eventful tour to Chernobyl. You will visit the place where the time has stood still on that memorable April 26, 1986.
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