On April 26, 1986, one of the most devastating nuclear disasters in history occurred at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant near Pripyat, Ukraine. An explosion at Chernobyl's reactor number 4 destroyed the facility's protections against nuclear radiation and sent massive quantities of radioactive fallout into the atmosphere. In the aftermath of the disaster, scientists and historians have studied Chernobyl in order to determine exactly what went wrong. Was the catastrophe simply a tragic failure of nuclear safety systems? Or did something more than a mere accident happen at Chernobyl?
A nuclear accident happened at ChernobylShow moreShow less
A combination of technical problems and inadequate safety measures led to a catastrophic explosion.
Engineers at Chernobyl in 1986 were concerned about excess heat generated by the nuclear decay of the reactor fuel, which had the potential to damage the reactor in the event of an emergency shutdown. If electrical power was lost, water pumps would no longer be able to cool the system adequately.
To deal with this potential problem, Chernobyl's operators designed a test where they would lower the output of reactor number four and try to get power from a turbine to operate the coolant water pumps. Unfortunately, errors in the experiment's design caused the power level of the reactor to drop far lower than planned, and the engineers' attempts to compensate for the problem caused further instability and ultimately an explosion in the reactor.