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( Article Type: Explanation )

Chernobyl is a Russian nuclear power station, some 80 kilometres from Kiev in the Ukraine, where a nuclear accident occurred on 26 April 1986. The accident was caused by the deliberate switching off of safety systems, which resulted in the deaths of at least 31 people at the time of the event and many more in the subsequent clean up process. Over 200 others suffered acute radiation sickness and it is believed that over 200 000 people had to be evacuated. Fifteen years after the event, those people have still not all been permanently relocated. Over 150 000 square kilometres in Belarus, Russia and the Ukraine are contaminated and an ‘exclusion zone’, 30 km in radius around the site, is totally uninhabited.dd

In July 1987, six former senior officials and technicians from the station were sentenced to terms of imprisonment in labour camps for blatant violation of safety procedures. The accident resulted in radioactive fallout over Europe, which will increase the number of people likely to develop cancer in that area over the next 50 years. The accident caused the nuclear industry to re-examine all its emergency planning and safety procedures. The political and economic situation in the former Soviet Union is causing many international nuclear scientists to worry about the state of nuclear power stations and the possibility that other events like Chernobyl could occur because of the shortage of skilled manpower and money to operate the power station in a safe manner. International agencies will be spending over US$765 million over the next eight to nine years to reinforce the shelter covering the controversial fourth reactor on the site, to shore up the deteriorating ‘Sarcophagus’ cover put over to contain future escapes and releases.