Do any of you guys remember what happened April 26, 1986? I was a teenager, just becoming aware of the world around me and what a big, scary place it could be. I remember very well what happened that day: The Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster in the Russian satellite country of the Ukraine. While it is somewhat impossible to determine the exact number of people affected, some studies report that nearly half a million people were adversely affected by the disaster.
Back in the 1980s, Russia had swallowed up numerous “Eastern Bloc” nations. Stalin and succeeding Russian dictators used these nations (and the people in them) to slurp up their natural resources. The Ukraine, once the glorious breadbasket of Eastern Europe, was suffering from food shortages and economic disaster from Soviet policy. The Russians had built a huge nuclear power plant in Pripyat. The city there was much more prosperous than her rural neighbors, housing some of the best scientists and engineers of the country.
Russian leaders were very, very slow to report what happened that fateful day on April 26th. I think it took weeks before we in the United States learned of all the details. We later found out that a power surge within the nuclear reactor facility caused a reactor vessel to rupture, sending explosions and an enormous plume of radioactive smoke into the atmosphere. Russia sent firemen and emergency personnel into the reactor facility to put out the fire. According to some reports, nothing was said to these men about the radioactivity that now contaminated everything. Most of these workers died from radiation exposure or from horrible illnesses later.
The radioactive plume spread across the continent, with most of of the fallout contaminating Belarus, the Ukraine, and western Soviet Russia. My heart just breaks for those people.
They say that the nearby forests were so contaminated that they glowed red. This area is now called the Red Forest.
The Soviets were very, very quiet about the accident. It wasn’t until radiation alarms sounded in Sweden, 1000 kilometers away, that the Soviets admitted something had happened. Politicians in Moscow seemed very non-chalant about the Ukrainian people and their plight. Their stoically encryptic message was this:
There has been an accident at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. One of the nuclear reactors was damaged. The effects of the accident are being remedied. Assistance has been provided for any affected people. An investigative commission has been set up.
The countries that suffered the worst from the fallout are (in order): Belarus, the Ukraine, Russia, Sweden, Finland, Austria, Bulgaria, Norway, Switzerland, and Greece. The wind blew the radiation into the other countries; rain seeded with contaminants fell and adulerated the soil; the Pripyat River flowed into Europe’s waterways and contaminated the waters. And you know what’s really weird— the name Chernobyl means Wormwood. That name is in the Bible, in the book of Revelation:
And the third angel sounded, and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters;
And the name of the star is called Wormwood: and the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter. Rev. 8:10, 11
Today, the area surrounding Chernobyl is a ghost town. People dropped everything and fled. Everything they owned was contaminated, so they could take nothing with them.
Unfortunately, the people and other living creatures were not unaffected. Thyroid cancer is the leading cause of death among afflicted children. Birth defects threaten future generations. The creatures of the land are contaminated, too, some developing young with crippling abnormalities.
The area of the Ukraine was almost entirely abandoned. Some old timers refused to evacuate. And, believe it or not, the Soviets continued to use the other Chernobyl reactors during an energy crisis! Workers could only work for 5 days before evacuating for 15, otherwise they risked radiation poisoning. Who would even volunteer for such a job?! Oh, but wait, this is Soviet…. no volunteers necessary….
Today, the trees and plants are taking back the once neatly patterned fields and streets. The place is a veritable ghost town. Ukranian officials say that the place will be inhabitable for 20,000 years.
If you want to read more about Chernobyl — from the view of a Ukrainian — check out this fascinating site Kidd of Speed. It’s a little dated now, but it’s a good history lesson. Lord, may we learn from history.
Photo credits: skypy.