Since the discovery of nuclear fission and nuclear fusion, people have thought to use nuclear reactions that release energy to generate heat for industrial production. Up to 2015, nuclear power has provided more than 10% of world’s electricity. Since fusion involves the merging of atomic nuclei and it’s so hard to get it hot enough and contain the chain reaction on Earth, most of the nuclear power stations use nuclear fission nowadays. But even under various supervising and protecting measures, sometimes inconspicuous negligence and natural disasters can still cause irrevocable disasters. And in this blog, I would like to introduce a level-7 (highest level) nuclear accident that happened almost 30 years ago.
On 26 April 1986, an explosion in the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant released large quantities of radioactive particles into the atmosphere that spread over almost Europe for a long time. This accident occurred during an experiment that scheduled to test a potential safety emergency core cooling feature. Unfortunately, there came a sudden and unexpected power surge that couldn’t even be suppressed by emergency shutdowns and led to the following reactor vessel rupture and steam explosions. The released radioactivity brought lasting impacts both on human and nature. Harmful leaked radio-nuclides like iodine-131, caesium-134 and caesium-137 tended to concentrate in thyroid and milk glands, causing significant increase of thyroid cancers in contaminated areas. And due to their long-term exposure to radiation in the following years, local vegetations in Chernobyl area began to show abnormal features. The ever-increasing gene mutations have significantly affected the growth, reproduction and survival rates of trees, making them more unbearable to extreme weather conditions. Even after 30 years, such tragedy still reminded people of the importance of using nuclear power safely and appropriately.