It was the early hours of a spring morning when workers at the Chernobyl nuclear facility in Ukraine noticed something was wrong. Operating errors combined with design flaws to cause the worst nuclear disaster the world has ever known.
The ongoing nuclear event at the Fukushima reactors in Japan bring Chernobyl into the light once again. The still unfolding disaster in Japan has been raised to the highest level on a danger scale, now joining Chernobyl as the only events ranking a seven.
What began at Chernobyl April 26, 1986, changed forever the way we view nuclear power. Following is a look at what has happened over the course of 25 years, by the numbers.
16 – The number of Chernobyl clean-up veterans, known as “liquidators,” who received medals from President Dimitry Medvedev during a ceremony in Russia marking the 25th anniversary of the disaster.
23,000 rubles – The monthly stipend Vladimir Kondrashov, one of the 16, said he receives. Equivalent to around $825, Kondrashov said it does not cover his health expenses.
200,000 – How many rescue workers from Chernobyl still live in the countries of the former Soviet Union, according to the head of the Chernobyl Union.
90,000 – The number of those workers estimated to have long-term health effects resulting from the disaster.
2014- The year a new permanent safe containment structure is to be completed, encasing the damaged reactor. It will augment the hastily built structure completed quickly in 1986 to contain the core. The Shelter Implementation Program (SIP) will permanently cover the damaged reactor.
134- Number of workers directly involved in the immediate mitigation of the disaster. Of those, 28 died in 1986 as a direct result of radiation exposure in 1986. Another 19 died by 2004. Though it’s not clear how many of those deaths were from exposure, it was likely a factor.
4,000 – Cases of thyroid cancer attributed to Chernobyl as of 2005, with 15 deaths. Many thousands more cases are expected over time.
360,000 – People who were eventually relocated from contaminated regions of Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia.
30 kilometers – How big the exclusion zone is surrounding Chernobyl.
5,000 – The “up to” number given by the World Health Organization suggesting that up to 5,000 cancer deaths will result from the Chernobyl disaster.
As Ukraine marks the 25th anniversary of what happened at Chernobyl, and the world waits to see just how bad the Fukushima radiation release will be, people around the world are reconsidering nuclear power. A common factor in both incidents is the lack of forthright information.
“I think that our modern states must see the main lesson of what happened at Chernobyl and the most recent Japanese tragedy as the necessity to tell people the truth,” Medvedev said at the award ceremony in Moscow.