Moments in NRC History: Chernobyl’s Lessons Learned

On April 26, 1986, an explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power station in the Ukraine spewed radioactive material into the environment — with immediately tragic effects. Two workers at the site died within hours of the explosion from non-radiation causes. Another 134 suffered from acute radiation sickness, which was quickly fatal for 28 of them. An 18-mile radius around the plant was eventually closed and the population evacuated – not to return even to this day.

So begins a new YouTube video, posted today, that is the first of our “Moments in NRC History.” This video is narrated by the NRC’s historian, Tom Wellock, and highlights what the NRC – and the world’s nuclear industry — learned from this disaster.

“It was a world-wide phenomenon that is still being studied for its health effects and how to prevent and deal with severe reactor accidents,” he says in the video.

The video includes archival footage of Chernobyl and provides updates on the health effects of the accident. It also outlines the three major phases of the NRC’s investigation into the tragedy:

• determining the facts of the accident;

• assessing the accident’s implications for regulation in the U.S.; and

• conducting follow-up studies suggested by the assessment.

Chernobyl is an important historical milestone, the most severe accident in civilian industry history. It alone was rated a seven – the highest level – on the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale, until the events at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

“The goal is always to use history to prevent problems in the future,” Tom says.

We hope you take a few minutes to view this new video.

Eliot Brenner
Public Affairs Director