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Five Facts You Should Know Before Binge Watching HBO’s Chernobyl

HBO’s Chernobyl might have had its season finale already, but it has left behind a huge impact on the minds of its viewers. If you haven’t watched it yet, chances are you still know that Chernobyl is the name of a place in the USSR, which saw a huge nuclear disaster that impacted the lives of many. The disaster happened back in 1986, and now the gripping series from HBO has captured the imagination of millions across the globe, giving the show the highest ever viewership and huge popularity. It’s important to keep in mind when watching that there are some discrepancies between the reality and the myths. So, here are a few important things you must know before you start watching the show:

What Caused The Accident?

During a test simulation, the accident happened at reactor number 4. Poor design and some errors on the part of the employees was the reason behind the initial accident. Despite the fact that reactors were highly unstable in low power, the operators of course, ran them in low power. A surge in power caused the tubes to burst. As they contained fuel, the reaction with the boiling water and the steam caused an explosion that lifted the top cover of of the reactor. A second explosion occurred which further exposed the nuclear reactor and caused a fire that burned for more than a week. This released radiation to the atmosphere which was extremely harmful!

The Evacuation

The nearest city to the reactor was Pripyat, a small city with a population of no more than 50,000. Unfortunately though, they were not immediately evacuated. The authorities started evacuating people about 36 hours after the explosion. But even before that, within hours of the disaster, people started falling ill all over the city. Coughing, vomiting, headache, complaining of a metallic taste in the mouth – those are just some of the symptoms that plagued the locals. Since the plant was run by Moscow, the government of Ukraine didn’t have proper communication with them regarding the accident or the aftermath. The residents of the city were told that this would be a short term evacuation and will last for maximum, 3 days. Hence, they were asked to keep most of their belongings in their home and some of those items still remains there today. Soon, authorities started evacuating people within 30km as well. This entire zone came to be known as the “exclusion zone”. If you happen to visit Ukraine, you can visit this place today which has oddly enough become quite the tourist attraction since then.

The Aftermath

About 237 people were deeply affected by the radiation out of which 31 died from in the first three months. However, over the years, several deaths were reported and the consequences were far-reaching. The pine forest near the reactor turned red and brown and is still known as and referred to as the “red forest” today. Several wild animals either perished or became infertile due to the accident. Though most domestic animals have moved away, some horses in a nearby island were forgotten and they died just days after the accident occurred. Even neighboring countries, and even ones that were far off like Italy, received some amount of radiation. While a growing number of people complaining about the effects of radiation became an issue for Ukraine, about 350 animals were born with severe deformities.

What Happened At Chernobyl?

Despite the huge catastrophe, the other reactors were not closed off right away and they continued operating as Ukraine faced a shortage of energy. Back in 2000, then-President of Ukraine, Leonid Kuchma turned off reactor 3 and that marked the end of all the reactors in Chernobyl. A concrete sarcophagus was built afterwards to cover up reactor number 4, but it collapsed in 2013, and a new steel sarcophagus was built, which is slated to last for at least a 100 years.

Though some residents have returned to live here, the area is mostly deserted and is covered with jungle and wild animals. We hope the several trusts that were formed to combat the problems that are surfacing due to the huge amount of radiation that happened during the accident. Experts believe it might take about 100 years for the effect of radiation to go away. Along with other man-made disasters like Bhopal Gas Leak, Three-Mile Island Accident, the space shuttle Challenger disaster, Chernobyl is the matter of case studies for governments all over on how to avoid similar disasters.


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