The Chernobyl nuclear power plant

Just after midnight on the 26th of April 1986 , there was a huge explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the Ukraine. This was followed by a gradual melt down of the No.4 reactor.

It immediately sent radioactive fall out across neighbouring Byelorussia, Poland and the Baltic Republics towards Scandinavia.

Within days, radioactive mists wafted across most of Europe causing anxiety and fear.

I'm going to talk about why it happened and how the Soviet government responded.

There are three main reasons why the disaster took place.

One reason is outdated technology.

Dr. Edward Teller, known as the father of the hydrogen bomb said that during the Second World War, the United States built three reactors of the same type as the one at Chernobyl but a safeguard recommended against their use in 1950. He stressed that no such prototype was active in any western city today.

Another reason is the priority given to military considerations
Chernobyl reactors are designed for producing plutonium for military use, as well as for generating electricity. As has been stated in a Wall Street Journal editorial: "Soviet reactors are inherently far more dangerous than those in the West, for a single reason: Safety has been sacrificed in the interest of turning out large quantities of weapons grade plutonium".

One more reason is the irresponsibility at the top and slipshod attitutdes everywhere else.
Gorbachev had been hurrying all over Russia to promote efficiency. The results are the demoralized workforce, the poor discipline of labour and the chronic shortage of essential equipment and building materials. There is a lot of evidence today that numerous warnings were largely ignored by Moscow.

So let's look at the way the Soviet government handled matters

Sweden was the first country to give an alarm. The day after the accident, the staff at the Forsmark Nuclear Power Plant measured a dangerous surge in radioactivity. At first they thought their own plant was the cause but then they realized that it was coming from the southeast, from the Soviet Union. Eventually Chernobyl, some 800 miles away, was pinpointed from wind patterns. Swedish diplomats in Moscow asked questions but the Soviet government did not reply.

The Soviet's first response was to investigate the entire area with KGB security troops and impose absolute silence.

The following day, the Moscow TV news announced in a very short statement that "an accident had occurred at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant" with no details. Moscow remained silent for two more days. Finally on April 30th the Moscow newspaper, Pravda, broke the silence and announced the Chernobyl accident.

The Chernobyl tragedy has implications that reach far beyond the critical questions of contamination and nuclear safety.

The Ukrainian people have suffered devastation under Soviet rule. In 1933, the Soviet regime starved to death almost seven million Ukrainian peasants. Also in the 1930's a series of mass purges eliminated a whole generation of Ukrainian intellectuals. And during the last two decades they have witnessed a large scale suppression of Ukrainian dissidents.

Consequently, it exacerbated the tensions between the Ukrainians and Moscow.

When the communist regime collapsed in 1991, Ukraine became independent. But the Chernobyl disaster has left a long-lasting legacy, as the radiation is still making people sick today and the Ukrainian government is struggling from the financial impact.