Chernobyl Wiki

[RU: Тщательный взгляд на Чернобыльской АЭС], [DE: Ein sorgfältiger Blick auf das Kernkraftwerk Tschernobyl]

This page is a general overview of the accident that explores almost all aspects of the accident. It contains links to more specialized pages of various topics mentioned below.

The World Of The Wormwood[]

Before 10

On April 25, 1986, the residents of the town of Pripyat were contented and happy. It was a new, modern town, built to house the workers who ran the nearby Chernobyl Atomic Power Station. It was a young town, built in 1970, and there were about 50,000 residents early in the year of 1986. On April 25, they were reveling in spring, able to hang laundry outside to dry and not crack ice off it, children played outside, the many roses were blooming and everyone looked forward to the May Day parade that was coming up soon.

May 1st never came to Pripyat.

On April 26, 1986, at 1:24:24 AM Kiev time, a test was scheduled at reactor #4 of the Chernobyl station. Prior to this, going back to 1977, the first reactor —and all the others shortly following—had been built in haste with sub-grade materials[1]. Two more reactors were under construction in 1986. Workers were undertrained, sometimes getting drunk or sleeping on duty with no disciplinary consequences[2].

Before 3

These same incompetent, drunken workers, who were tired from staying up most of the night, sat down in the control room of the #4 reactor that night to conduct a test to see how long the turbine would continue to spin in the event of a power failure at the plant. The reactor design was flawed and the test was dangerous; the model, RBMK-1000, a breeder-reactor type, allowed for the manual shutdown of all safety systems, which was exactly what the test called for.

With all the boron control rods removed, reactivity rose rapidly, making the core of the reactor heat to dangerous temperatures. There was a steam explosion when a pipe ruptured, which allowed oxygen to enter the reactor. This caused a second explosion that blew the roof from the building, and the entire structure burst into flames.

Pripyat's fire brigade was called. Not knowing what they were actually dealing with, the firemen went to the reactor without equipment to protect them from radiation. They stayed for a few hours, then were taken to the hospital in Pripyat. The doctors did not know that they had radiation poisoning, and it was assumed they'd inhaled gas[3], so they were given the wrong treatment. All of them were flown to a special hospital in Moscow, and all of them died of radiation sickness within 14 days of receiving their lethal doses.

Initially, no one said anything to alert the citizens of Pripyat about the dangers that faced them—they went on their lives like normal, almost all of the plant workers having been evacuated along with their families to prevent Pripyat’s residents from finding out about the accident; meanwhile at the station the army had been called in to try and put out the fire. It took three days for Pripyat to be evacuated. Every bus that normally ran in Kiev was used to transport the residents of Pripyat out of the city.

Explosion 2

Citizens of Pripyat during the evacuation.

Every town and village within a 30-km radius of the power plant was evacuated. All the residents of Pripat suffered severe medical problems in the future because the evacuation was delayed by three days. The wives of the firemen who visited them in the hospital before they died gave birth to children with birth defects, many of whom died shortly following or were stillborn[4].

Chernobyl 53

While the evacuations were taking place, the Soviet government drafted roughly 650,000 young men[5] (this is an educated guess - no one knows the true number) over a period of two years to help clean up the accident. The first draft was sent to the reactor itself, to help the army bury the burning nuclear core under tonnes upon tonnes of boron, dolomite sand, lead, and concrete[6]. Much of this was dropped from helicopters, and most of those pilots died within days because they inhaled smoke and took radiation that came at them from below[7].

Explosion 4

The next wave was sent to wash the buildings and streets of Pripyat to remove radiation[8]. Some places, like the city of Poleskoye 32 kilometres away, had streets dug up, water lines replaced and schools and hospitals torn down and rebuilt to reduce the radiation level[9]. The Soviets tried to save these towns, but the radiation was too high. Their efforts went to waste, and places like Poleskoye, two kilometres outside the exclusion zone, were abandoned anyway.

The Un-Operational Station[]

Workers remain at Chernobyl today.

Chernobyl reactor 5

Unfinished 5th reactor.

Not a single one of the reactors runs. The 5th and 6th reactors were never finished; their construction was halted shortly following the explosion.

But people still work there; a few soldiers and police officers, to ensure that no one tries to sneak in to steal uranium. Some nuclear technicians, but not to run reactors. The 1st reactor was shut down for good as part of a political deal. A fire in the turbine of the 2nd reactor ensured that it, too, was switched off forever. The 3rd reactor was the last to permanently go off line, in an official ceremony[10].

The nuclear technicians are overseeing the disassembly of the three reactors, which have finally cooled down enough that they can be safely taken apart. There are also many construction workers, in protective radiation suits wearing oxygen tanks and respirators, who work on the 4th reactor to try and stabilize the hastily-built concrete sarcophagus as a new shelter, designed to last much longer, is built. Once it is completed, the concrete sarcophagus will be carefully dismantled.

Chernobyl reactor 4 1

The rapidly disintegrating sarcophagus, shown behind dead power lines that will never transport energy from the plant again.

The Chernobyl power plant is the place in the Exclusion Zone that is the most alive. Interestingly, it has lower radiation levels than in the Red Forest, because the power plant is mostly concrete, which does not hold as much radiation as most materials, and the forest is trees and undergrowth and dirt[11], all things that hold inetnse levels of radioactiviy and which can become about 10X more contaminated than the air.

This intense radiation will kill you if you spend an hour there, even with a protective suit and respirator. This means, the power plant is quite safe…so long as you are not in the sarcophagus.


One of the many results of the accident was a large amount of radioactive waste in the form of military hardware and fire engines that never returned to their stations. These will eventually be buried at Buryakovka field, where all radioactive hardware is buried[12]. The material loss was massively devastating, and crippling for the local economy. Ukraine and Belarus may never fully recover[13].

The Real Heroes[]

Wormwood 115

Liquidators on their way to the Exclusion Zone.

30,000 people died in the first year after the accicent[14]. In the grand scheme of things, this is a moderate amount of people, which encompasses helicopter pilots, firemen, soldiers, and many of the draftees, titled "liquidators." There are two monuments to these heroes, one in Kiev and one at the Chernobyl station; without them, the death toll would be far higher[15].


Chernobyl 39

Sign reads “Kopachi”—the red slash through the centre means that it was evacuated in 1986. This way the soldiers would not go to the same village twice and waste time.

An uncountable number of people were relocated from their homes. Many of the elderly returned and have died there, and those who still live claim that they would rather die at home from radiation than die someplace far away of homesickness[16]. Today the elderly are permitted to stay; young adults and children are not17].


In 2003 Lukashenko had an idea to populate the Exclusion Zone with criminals. Nothing came of this idea; however, people running from the law will often hide in the Exclusion Zone, which is easy to hide in and hard to fine anything one it has been lost there. There are many stolen cars in southern Belarus and northern Ukraine for this reason[18].

Road To Nowhere[]

Wormwood 4

There are many back roads in the Exclusion Zone that lead to dead villages or disappear completely into the woods. People get lost and are never found on these roads, so often they are blocked[19].

Wormwood 66

The condition of the road varies, depending on where you are in the Exclusion Zone. Sometimes, time has treated them well, and they are easy to use. Sometimes the roads are not good, or are completely destroyed. When travelling in the Exclusion Zone, it is not uncommon to see a fallen tree or a telephone pole blocking the road ahead of you.

The Town Where Time Stands Still[]

Wormwood 51


According to tourists, there is no sound in Pripyat and the silence is deafening. No birds sing and the wind does not break the silence because the trees do not rustle. Many people who visit feel they are going mad and leave before they finish the tour[20].

Coming Home[]

05the flats

Block housing (flats) in Pripyat, with the edge of downtown in the bottom right corner

No one lives in Pripyat. Most villages that were evacuated have at least on returned resident, but Pripyat remains completely abandoned[21]. Not one of the 50,000 resettled people ever came back to live in their homes, though some snuck in through the forest to smuggle personal items to where they had been placed by the Soviet government[22]. Most found their flats plundered, though those who didn't took away objects that were dangerously contaminated without knowing it.


Most of the flats are now part of buildings that are structurally unsafe or still have pockets of intense radiation[23], so tourists are not typically allowed inside the homes.




Chernobyl 18

Operating room.

The hospital was one of the last places to be evacuated. And it makes you think: what if someone was having a surgery performed on them during the evacuation? What became of them?


04silent carnival

Bumper cars that were never driven

The fun fair was supposed to be open on May 1st[24], just after the May Day parade. Children would go to the site and watch as it was gradually set up, eagerly awaiting its opening. Many left their toys there during the evacuation, and today the carnival, especially the metal rides, it the most radioactive section of the city because it is directly in front of the reactor[25].


The main road leading through Pripyat was being specially prepared for the May Day parade. Some of the decorations are still up and can be seen.


These photos don't need comments.


Even now, people are still struggling to grasp exactly what Chernobyl is. The information is available about the efforts of the liquidators, the explosion itself, and what is happening with the station now, but those things are not what it is, they are contributing factors. What Chernobyl is is the worst thing that anyone can imagine: thousands of needless deaths, millions uprooted from their homes with no warning, and all information held from them by the government.

Even given the scale of the disaster at the triple-meltdown at the Fukushima station in Japan, it is my opinion and belief that Chernobyl, in a way, was much worse a disaster for several reasons:

-The Chernobyl disaster was caused by incompetence, laziness, and rushing to meet an unreasonable deadline, not to mention the poorly-upheld discipline standards of the workers. The Fukushima accident was caused by a tsunami, which is something completely beyond human control.

-The Soviet government did everything they possibly could to cover up every fact and hide it from not only the world but also the very civilians who were most at risk; the Japanese admitted to a disaster, and only some of the information was held back by Tepco, not the government itself.

-Because it was the first of its kind as such a large-scale nuclear disaster, Chernobyl caused much more of a shock. There was initial panic in Moscow over how to deal with the issue; they could not ask for help from any of the Western governments who would potentially have been better equipped to deal with such a disaster and they clearly could not handle it themselves no matter how desperately they tried. Japan accepted help from other countries, and because of the disaster at Chernobyl there was more information available, at least, about what not to do when a reactor goes critical.

And this is the result:



Ablaze cover

[1] Ablazeby Piers Paul Read

[2] Ablaze by Piers Paul Read

[3] Voices From Chernobylby Svetlana Alexievich

[4] Voices From Chernobylby Svetlana Alexievich

[5] Kiddofspeed: Ghost Town(website) by Elena Filatova

0978031242584 500X500

Voices From Chernobyl cover

[6] Voices From Chernobylby Svetlana Alexievich

[7] Voices From Chernobylby Svetlana Alexievich

[8] Voices From Chernobylby Svetlana Alexievich

[9] Kiddofspeed: Ghost Town(website) by Elena Filatova


Zones of Exclusion: Pripyat and Chernobyl cover

[10] Zones of Exclusion: Pripyat and Chernobylby Robert Polidori

[11] Kiddofspeed: Ghost Town(website) by Elena Filatova

[12] Zones of Exclusion: Pripyat and Chernobylby Robert Polidori

[13] Kiddofspeed: Ghost Town(website) by Elena Filatova

[14] Chernobyl Disaster; Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia

[15] Voices From Chernobylby Svetlana Alexievich


A map of Elena's tour of the Exclusion Zone, from her website

[16] Kiddofspeed: Ghost Townby Elena Filatova

[17] Zones of Exclusion: Pripyat and Chernobylby Robert Polidori

[18] Kiddofspeed: Ghost Town(website) by Elena Filatova

[19] Kiddofspeed: Ghost Town(website) by Elena Filatova

[20] Kiddofspeed: Ghost Town(website) by Elena Filatova

[21] Zones of Exclusion: Pripyat and Chernobylby Robert Polidori

[22] Voices From Chernobylby Svetlana Alexievich

[23] Kiddofspeed: Ghost Town(website) by Elena Filatova

[24] Kiddofspeed: Ghost Town(website) by Elena Filatova

[25] Kiddofspeed: Ghost Town(website) by Elena Filatova