Chernobyl, Russia: Nuclear power plant explosion

Top 10 man-made ecological disasters

A boy stands next to portraits of the victims of the accident at the Chernobyl power station

What has come to be acknowledged as the worst ever nuclear power plant accident in history, happened on the 26th of April in 1986 when a reactor at the Chernobyl plant, in the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, had a meltdown and the resulting fire sent a plume of radioactive fallout into the atmosphere and over an extensive geographical area, drifting over large parts of the western Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, Western Europe, and Northern Europe.

Four hundred times more radioactive material was released than had been by the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. The people that have lived in the Chernobyl area during the accident suffer from various health problems. Immediately following the accident, hundreds of people were diagnosed with radiation sickness.

Particularly in Belarus, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of thyroid cancers (2.400%) and leukaemia (100%). Children of Chernobyl victims suffer from birth defects (250% increase), causing cancer and heart diseases. Approximately 64% of all Ukrainian children under 15 suffering from cancer lived in the most contaminated areas. Genetic defects often result in mutations causing missing limbs.

Estimates range from 60 - 200 years before the area can be used for any activity. Farming or any other type of agricultural industry would be dangerous and completely inappropriate for at least 200 years. As for the #4 reactor where the meltdown occurred, it is estimated that it will be 20,000 years before the real estate will be fully safe.

A Greenpeace report in 2006 estimated that the full consequences of the Chernobyl disaster could top a quarter of a million cancer cases and nearly 100,000 fatal cancers.