We cannot prevent all disasters, but we can do everything possible to keep them from happening again. The Chernobyl nuclear disaster of 1986 was one of the events that the human race should have prevented at all cost. But we failed. Today, we can only study the reasons for the tragedy, and the consequences of it. The Chernobyl disaster had a significant impact on the citizens of the Soviet Union and the whole world.
Short Overview of the Chernobyl Disaster
The Chernobyl tragedy is one of the largest nuclear disasters in history, along with the Fukushima Daiichi disaster. These were “the only disasters to receive a level 7 (the maximum classification) on the International Nuclear Event Scale” (Ritchie). Although the exact number of people who died as a direct result of the Chernobyl disaster is known (2 power plant workers and 29 firemen), it is impossible to evaluate the number of victims who suffered from low-level radiation exposure.
Impact of Human Health
The radioactive emissions had a negative impact on the population in many European countries. According to the research by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, “Chernobyl may have caused about 1,000 cases of thyroid cancer and 4,000 cases of other cancers in Europe” (Cardis et al.). However, the citizens of the Soviet Union in Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus were most affected by the radiation.
Negative Effects on Population
The Soviet government tried to hide the facts of the accident and the possible consequences not only from the world press, but from its citizens. As a result, the population was negatively affected by radiation poisoning. In the report provided by the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation of 2018, the researchers claimed that “the accident also was responsible for nearly 20,000 documented cases of thyroid cancer among individuals who were under 18 years of age at the time of the accident in the three affected countries including Belarus, Ukraine and the Russian Federation” (qtd. in “Chernobyl Accident and Its Consequences”).
Historical Significance and Global Impact
Along with disastrous consequences for the Soviet and European population, the Chernobyl nuclear disaster also had a significant impact on world history. Firstly, this disaster could have been one of the main reasons for the fall of the Soviet Union. Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the USSR, suggested that Chernobyl was “perhaps the real cause of the collapse of the Soviet Union” (qtd. in Stern).
Secondly, after the tragedy, other countries have comprehended the full extent of nuclear power and its danger for humanity. Finally, the Chernobyl disaster made the Soviet government reconsider its policy and announce a new epoch of “glasnost” (“openness”). This epoch was the beginning of a more democratic regime. In addition, “glasnost” triggered the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
The consequences of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster are difficult to estimate, but even the approximate number of fatalities terrifies. Thousands of people in the Soviet Union and in Europe have suffered from this accident, and they still pay for the mistakes made by a few politicians.
1. “Chernobyl Accident and Its Consequences.” Nuclear Energy Institute, May 2019, www.nei.org/resources/fact-sheets/chernobyl-accident-and-its-consequences.
2. Cardis, Elisabeth, et al. “Estimates of the Cancer Burden in Europe from Radioactive Fallout from the Chernobyl Accident.” International Journal of Cancer, National Center for Biotechnology Information, 15 Sept. 2006, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16628547.
3. Ritchie, Hanna. “What Was the Death Toll from Chernobyl and Fukushima?” Our World in Data, 24 July 2017, ourworldindata.org/what-was-the-death-toll-from-chernobyl-and-fukushima.
4. Stern, Mark Joseph. “How a Nuclear Catastrophe Undermined an Entire Empire.” Slate Magazine, Slate, 25 Jan. 2013, slate.com/technology/2013/01/chernobyl-and-the-fall-of-the-soviet-union-gorbachevs-glasnost-allowed-the-nuclear-catastrophe-to-undermine-the-ussr.html.
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From our essay on the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, you can learn about the real consequences of this terrible mistake for the Soviet citizens and the population of Europe. Although the disaster took place in 1986, we may still witness its horrifying results.
The Chernobyl accident has changed our perception of nuclear power. We can’t deny the value of this energy, but we’ve seen how deadly it can be. However, modern society can’t progress without powerful sources of energy. If you’re interested in this topic, we recommend you to take a look at our presentation about nuclear and solar powers.
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