Jamison Brizendine
Senior Comprehensive Essay
In the morning hours of April 26, 1986, a horrible disaster took place just outside
of the present country of Belarus in the Ukraine. In this area, located over 70 miles north
of Kiev, lies the small town of Chernobyl, Ukraine, with a population of about 12,500.
Chernobyl housed a nuclear power plant that supplied about ten percent of the world’s
electrical power and nearly fifty percent for the former Soviet Union. By that morning the
reactor had been running for about 9 hours straight at fifty percent power.
In the early morning hours of the operators had been given permission to lower
the power output to thirty percent. An operator had made a serious error, when he forgot
to reset a controller. The power dropped to one percent as water started to fill the core,
and xenon was building up in the reactor. A half hour later the reactor spiked to 7 percent
power and all but six control rods were removed. The reactor became unstable, and the
operator forced an emergency shutdown. As power in the reactor began rose water flow
decreased, which lead to increase in boiling ( The reactor made a chain
reaction and reached one hundred and twenty times its full power, and the entire top of
the building exploded, sending radioactive debris everywhere and had caused over 30
The after effects were not simply concentrated in the Soviet Union. The radiation
spread to the countries of Sweden, Poland, Austria and Hungary. Food became
contaminated with Cesium and Iodine, and animals had to be slaughtered immediately.
Piglets and calves were also contaminated by the radioactivity (Plant 2005). Since the
Soviet Union depended largely on the fertile soil of the Ukraine to grow crops the
majority of the farmland was ruined.
After the initial disaster approximately five thousand tons of boron, lead, sand
and dolomite were deposited above the core of the nuclear reactor. This only caused the
nuclear core’s temperatures to rise therefore, and more emissions were released. Cesium
137 actually increased in areas where the radioactive fallout had traveled over areas that
had a lot of rain and snow. The fallout was not concentrated in one area, even a large
area, but it was more patch like and dispersed. Scientists also know that radioactive
fallout can travel over large distances, as the fallout from Chernobyl reached
Scandinavia, China, Japan and to a lesser extent, the United States. Today Geochemists
use a process called block kriging in the analysis of nuclear decay, the technique has been
used mostly to detect for radiocesium (Wright 2002). That paper also compared their
depositions from a plutonium plant that had also released radionuclides in Cumbria,
Today geochemists continue to study the concentration of radioactive elements in
the soil and in the atmosphere. The Chernobyl incident could have been prevented. It may
have occurred because of poor management and poor design of the facility. Soviet
officials had inspected the power plant earlier that year saying it had a one in ten
thousand chance of exploding. The explosion of 1986 also has made large improvements
in nuclear safety, and detecting other potential hazards.