On April 26, 1986, a sudden surge of power during a reactor systems test destroyed Unit 4 of the nuclear power station at Chernobyl, Ukraine, in the former Soviet Union. The accident and the fire that followed released massive amounts of radioactive material into the environment.
So starts the NRC backgrounder on accident. Today, exactly three decades later, it’s still an event worth recalling.
Last year, NRC Commissioner William Ostendorff and several NRC staffers, (photo above right) visited the site and saw the progress for containment and decommissioning first hand.
Said Commissioner Ostendorff of his visit: “I was struck by the impact of this tragic accident in 1986, especially by the visit to the abandoned city of Pripyat. I saw first-hand the detailed work underway to more permanently contain the damaged reactor for coming generations. I am grateful for the international support to fund the construction of the New Safe Confinement structure.”
The New Safe Confinement construction site can be seen in the photo to the left. The Commissioner’s visit included the construction site for the Dry Type Storage facility. The final completion date for this project is 2064.
As part of their tour, the Commissioner and NRC staff visited the abandoned city of Pripyat, home to an amusement park originally scheduled to open one week after the accident. (see photo below right)
After the accident, officials closed off the area within 18 miles of the plant, except for those with official business at the plant and those people dealing with the consequences of the accident and operating the undamaged reactors. The Soviet (and later on, Russian) government evacuated about 115,000 people from the most heavily contaminated areas in 1986, and another 220,000 people in subsequent years.