Two Years Ago Ukraine Stopped Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant

Two years ago Ukraine stopped operation of the Chernobyl nuclear plant. In several seconds, the station reported that reactor of the only operating power generating unit, the third one, was blocked. Direct broadcasting was done from the third generating unit at that moment. It is expected that the power generating unit #3 will be completely laid off in 2008, which means that the same year the nuclear power plant itself will be also closed. All nuclear fuel from the generating unit and its cooling ponds will be reloaded into a deposit. And until this moment, the power generating unit will be considered a dangerous nuclear object.

Ukraine closed the Chernobyl nuclear plant in accordance with the memorandum on cooperation with the G7 countries and the EU Commission signed in December 1995. The document supposed that the West would provide financial aid for construction of compensatory capacities, solution of social problems and construction of a deposit for spent nuclear fuel.

Before 2000, only the power generating unit #3 was operated at the Chernobyl nuclear plant. The unit #1 is under suspended exploitation (spent nuclear fuel isn’t yet discharged from it); the unit #2 is in the process of withdrawal from exploitation (it’s already emptied of fuel); the unit #4 was destroyed in the accident in 1986. According to some estimates, about 180 tons of molten nuclear fuel still remain in the fourth power generating unit.

Construction of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant started in 1970; the first generating unit was set into operation in 1977. The last unit, the unit #4 was started in 1983. In three years, at 1:24 a.m. April 26, 1986, the nuclear reactor of the fourth power generating unit was destroyed in a tragic accident; great amount of radioactive substances penetrated into the atmosphere. A special sarcophagus was constructed above the destroyed power generating unit in October – November, 1986; operation of the units #1 and 2 was recommenced. The unit #3 was constructively joined with the sarcophagus, its operation was recommenced in 1987.

According to the expert estimates, the total discharge of radioactive materials made up 50 million curie which is equal to consequences of the explosions of 500 nuclear bombs dropped in Hiroshima in 1945. Total area of 50 thousand square kilometers covering 12 regions was contaminated in that awful tragedy. 3.2 million people, including about 1 million children suffered in the tragedy; they are suffering from diseases of respiratory airways, thyroid gland, etc., which rates are higher in the regions contaminated after the tragedy as compared with the whole of Ukraine. About 600 thousand people participated in liquidation of consequences of the tragedy in Chernobyl; 200 thousand of them were exposed to an enhanced radiation dose. Now these people need special medical aid and supervision over health condition during their whole lives.

Within the ten years since the Chernobyl tragedy, about 168 thousand people (out of the total number of the 3.2 million of the tragedy victims) died; it was later discovered that 4.3 thousand of them died because of the tragedy consequences, about 3 thousand of the perished were those who participated in liquidation of the accident consequences. Those victims of the tragedy who remained alive registered worsening of their health condition.

Currently, thirteen nuclear reactors of a RBMK class are in operation in Russia’s Smolensk, Kursk and Leningrad regions, and at the Ignalinskaya nuclear power plant in Lithuania. It is supposed to close the plant in Lithuania by 2009.

The first nuclear reactor was launched in Chicago (the USA) in 1942; the first nuclear power plant was started in the Soviet city of Obninsk in 1955 (it is supposed to be closed by 2005).

According to reports in mass media, over 420 power generating units with nuclear reactors and 296 research reactors are currently in operation in the world; there are 55 nuclear facilities in the space.

Translated by Maria Gousseva Obozrevatel

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