How does a nuclear disaster occur?

Alternatively, an external fire can endanger the core and cause a melt. Nuclear fission involves the splitting of huge unstable atoms, usually radioactive uranium 235, by hitting them with neutrons. On April 26, 1986, RBMK reactor number four at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, Ukraine, went out of control during a low-power test, causing an explosion and fire that demolished the reactor building and released large amounts of radiation into the atmosphere. Safety measures ignored, uranium fuel in reactor overheated and melted through barriers.

RBMK reactors do not have what is known as a containment structure, a concrete and steel dome over the reactor itself designed to keep radiation inside the plant in the event of such an accident. As a result, radioactive elements, such as plutonium, iodine, strontium and cesium, were dispersed over a wide area. In addition, graphite blocks used as moderating material in the RBMK ignited at high temperature when air entered the reactor core, contributing to the emission of radioactive materials into the environment. More than 100 radioactive elements were released into the atmosphere when the fourth Chernobyl reactor exploded.

Most of these were short-lived and disintegrated (reduced radioactivity) very quickly. Iodine, strontium and cesium were the most dangerous elements released, and they have half-lives of 8 days, 29 years and 30 years respectively. Therefore, the isotopes strontium-90 and cesium-137 are still present in the area to this day. Although iodine is linked to thyroid cancer, strontium can cause leukemia.

Cesium is the element that has traveled the most and lasts the longest. This element affects the entire body and, especially, can damage the liver and spleen. Some 150,000 square kilometers in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine are contaminated and extend north of the plant up to 500 kilometers. An area that spans 30 kilometers around the plant is considered the “exclusion zone” and is essentially uninhabited.

Radioactive fallout spread across much of the Northern Hemisphere through wind and storm patterns, but the amounts scattered were in many cases negligible. Emergency workers (liquidators) were recruited from the area and helped clean up the plant facilities and the surrounding area. These workers were mostly plant employees, Ukrainian firefighters, and many soldiers and miners from Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and other parts of the former Soviet Union. The exact number of liquidators is unknown because there are no completely accurate records of the people involved in the cleanup.

Russian registries included approximately 400,000 liquidators in 1991 and approximately 600,000 people were granted “liquidator” status. These 600,000 people received special benefits due to their participation, on and off site, in the fight against the aftermath of the accident. Duties of liquidators varied. They worked on decontamination and major construction projects, including establishing settlements and cities for plant workers and evacuees.

They also built waste reservoirs, dams, water filtration systems and the “sarcophagus”, which buries the entire fourth reactor to contain the remaining radioactive material. You can certainly visit the Chernobyl area, including the exclusion zone, which is within a 30-kilometer radius surrounding the plant, whose reactors are now closed. Although some of the radioactive isotopes released into the atmosphere still persist (such as strontium-90 and cesium-13), they are at tolerable exposure levels for limited periods of time. Some residents of the exclusion zone have returned to their homes of their own free will and live in areas with higher than normal levels of ambient radiation.

However, these levels are not deadly. Exposure to low but unusual levels of radiation over a period of time is less dangerous than exposure to a huge amount of radiation at once, and studies have not been able to link any direct increase in cancer risks to chronic exposure at low levels. There are 187 small communities in the exclusion zone that remain practically abandoned to this day. Some residents chose to return to their homes in the exclusion zone, but children are not allowed to live in this area.

The evacuated population lives mainly in newly built cities, such as Slavutich, in areas with very little or no pollution. On 15 December 2000, the last operating reactor at the Chernobyl site was closed and the decommissioning phase began. This involves the disposal and disposal of fuel and debris, decontamination of the plant and the surrounding area, including any soil and water that may be radioactive. There are three retired reactors that will be dismantled at the site, a project that is expected to take several decades.

The project will be carried out under the supervision of the Government of Ukraine. IAEA will assist by providing advice on planning, engineering and administration. The fate of the fourth reactor in which the tragic accident occurred in 1986 has not yet been determined. But if not enough water flows into the reactor core, the fuel rods will boil water faster than can be replaced, and the water level will drop.

Even when the reactor is shut down so that nuclear reactions no longer occur, the fuel rods remain extremely radioactive and hot and need to be cooled by water for an extended period of time. Without enough water, fuel rods get so hot that they melt. If the nuclear reactor core and steel containment vessel begin to melt, and release radiation into the environment, nuclear fusion occurs. Rising temperatures inside the reactor produced steam, which caused the pressure in the reactor to increase.

To prevent an explosion, engineers released part of the slightly radioactive vapor through a valve. Fairewinds Energy Education is a 501 (c), 3 nonprofit organization dedicated to fostering public understanding of issues related to nuclear energy and nuclear safety. When operating normally, energy production in a boiling water reactor begins with a process known as nuclear fission. It is important to remember that a nuclear fusion is not a singular tragic event, as is often the case with natural disasters.

They are based on taking advantage of nuclear fission, the division of an atom into two smaller atoms, which also produces heat and sends neutrons flying. A nuclear fusion is the worst-case scenario for a nuclear power plant, causing widespread releases of deadly radiation into the environment that can extend hundreds of miles away, affecting wildlife and humans. The catastrophic nuclear accidents at the Ukrainian Chernobyl power plant in 1986, and in Fukushima 25 years later, released radioactive material that caused loss of life, disease and pollution of land and water. In a complete nuclear fusion, the contents of fuel rods (uranium and fission by-products such as cesium) can be exposed and sink to the bottom of the reactor.

There has been no merger at the Fukushima power plant or any other of Japan's 55 nuclear power plants. Like coal- and gas-fired plants, nuclear power plants produce heat to produce the steam that drives turbines. To shut down a power plant, engineers activate control rods to cut off the nuclear fission process inside fuel rods. The main impacts of nuclear accidents were not caused by radiation exposure, but were due to psychological and socio-economic factors resulting from misconceptions and fears about radiation, and could therefore have been largely avoided.

There have been only two major accidents at nuclear power plants, and their impacts have been much less serious than previously feared. . .

Jerald Shiiba
Jerald Shiiba

Professional tv junkie. General zombie lover. Professional pop cultureaholic. Infuriatingly humble music scholar. Freelance travel maven.

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