Government Irresponsibility and
Denied Rights in the
World’s Worst Nuclear Disaster
Reegan M. Fabian
The world’s most catastrophic nuclear accident not only destroyed the physical structure of the Chernobyl Power Plant, but forever altered the lives of thousands of innocent victims. The Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, located in the now abandoned Ukrainian town of Pripyat, was a relatively new plant, completed in 1983 (World Nuclear Association). Its failure, occurring on April 26 1986 at 1:23:43 a.m., was a shocking, fast-paced disaster. The initiation of an experimental test of the plant’s fourth reactor, ended in a large steam explosion, releasing immense amounts of radiation into the atmosphere (Eustory). The Chernobyl Disaster is the most destructive nuclear accident in history, but it was entirely preventable. Through a combination of poorly executed responsibilities including the ignoring of previous historical mishaps and government negligence, the Chernobyl explosion became both an environmental and human rights disaster. The Chernobyl Disaster transformed the way the world looks at nuclear power and the possible consequence of improper management. The Chernobyl Disaster is an example of failed responsibilities because of the many nuclear accidents that should have served as examples of what to avoid. Chernobyl mimicked the calamitous outcomes of the atomic bombs dropped in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan in August 1945 (World Nuclear Association). Although the A-bomb was not a power plant explosion and more immediately devastating than Chernobyl, the radiation’s effects were quite similar. Many of the 103,000 people killed by the A-bombs died from various radiation illnesses such as acute radiation exposure and cancer (World Nuclear Association). The main cause of Chernobyl deaths were thyroid cancer and the first signs of illness were acute radiation syndrome (United Nations). Just like Chernobyl, the radionuclide, Caseium-237, “[…] remained detectable for many years in soil and farm products in the Nishiyama district east of Nagasaki” (World Nuclear Association). Caseium-237 continues to be the main radioactive isotope found in communities affected by Chernobyl (Maryann Deleo). After the A-bombs, birth defect rates rose considerably in heavily radioactive areas (World Nuclear Association). Similarly, birth defects skyrocketed in Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia, after the 1986 explosion (United Nations). Chernobyl Operators and the USSR failed to uphold their responsibility to take appropriate steps to prevent a similar disaster resulting in Chernobyl mirroring many of the A-bomb’s horrific “side effects.” Sadly, the A-bomb was only the first nuclear happening that called for attention and improvement that Chernobyl proceeded to ignore. Moreover, the Chernobyl meltdown paralleled the Three Mile Island Accident. In 1979, a partial nuclear explosion occurred in central Pennsylvania (World Nuclear Association). Although most of the radiation was contained and no serious health hazards or injuries arose, the accident demonstrated unacceptable mistakes. The relatively new second reactor exploded due to a minor cooling malfunction triggered by poor operator actions. The overheated reactor automatically shut down, partially melting the core and releasing a small amount of radiation. Luckily, the plant’s on-site containment building displayed its integrity and trapped the radioactive material, unlike Chernobyl, which did not house any buildings of that capability (World Nuclear Association). Instead of learning from Three Mile Island’s flaws, Chernobyl proceeded to duplicate them. The Chernobyl explosion occurred due to extreme temperature changes and operator actions, just like in Pennsylvania. Furthermore, confused Pennsylvanians were fed contradictory information about the explosion and whether the radiation posed health threats (Bromet 83-84).