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Flames fan lasting fallout from Chernobyl

On April 26, 1986, the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine exploded during a catastrophic meltdown, spewing radioactivity over Eastern Europe and forcing evacuations of thousands of people. Nearly 30 years later, the scar of the Chernobyl disaster remains in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine in the form of the 2,600-square-kilometer Exclusion Zone, which is choked with dead trees and overgrown brush contaminated with high levels of radioactive cesium, strontium and plutonium. Occasional wildfires in these woods send plumes of smoke laced with potentially harmful radionuclides into the atmosphere. Now, a new study finds that climate change will likely increase the frequency and intensity of these fires, further increasing the possible hazard.

19 May 2015

Gauging nuclear disasters

A nuclear accident is defined by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as an incident in which people died or property damage topped $50,000. In 1990, IAEA introduced the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale (INES) to rate and rank nuclear accidents. INES is a logarithmic scale that consists of seven levels: 0 (Deviation, no safety significance), 1 (Anomaly), 2 (Incident), 3 (Serious incident), 4 (Accident with local consequences), 5 (Accident with wider consequences), 6 (Serious accident) and 7 (Major accident).

31 May 2011

Benchmarks: April 26, 1986: Nuclear explosion at Chernobyl

By Carolyn Gramling

A rusting Ferris wheel dominates the skyline of Prypiat, Ukraine’s ghost town. A few kilometers away, within a massive concrete structure called the Sarcophagus, are the remnants of the worst nuclear disaster in history: the ruins of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant’s reactor number four — and about 200 tons of highly radioactive material.

24 Apr 2009