Chernobyl disaster is one of the worst nuclear accidents in history. On 26 April 1986, a reactor at a nuclear power plant in Northern Ukraine exploded and burned after a safety test. The disaster cast a radioactive shadow over the settlement of Pripyat,16 km northwest of the city of Chernobyl and 104 km north of Kiev, Ukraine. UNICEF estimated that over 350,000 people evacuated their homes in Pripyat and far beyond between 1986 and 2000 specifically due to Chernobyl’s after-effects. A 1000 square mile exclusion zone has been reclaimed by nature and now it is thriving with life.
How the accident really happened?
The station was capable of producing 4,000 megawatts of electric power and there were four reactors each producing 1000 megawatts. The technicians at reactor Unit 4 attempted a poorly designed experiment which turned into a disaster.
To control the situation, they closed down the reactor’s power-regulating system and its emergency safety systems.
Moreover, they removed most of the control rods from its core and allowed to continue running at 7 per cent power. However, this step went drastically wrong resulting in several explosions. Therefore these explosions also triggered a massive fireball and blew off the heavy steel and concrete lid of the reactor. This ensued fire in the graphite reactor core. This massive destruction of the reactors spewed large amounts of radioactive material into the atmosphere, where the air currents carried to a large distance.
Impact of the radiation on life:
Human being: It happened due to the negligence of improperly trained personnel with no fail-safes to prevent radiation from escaping in case of an accident. The radiation leads to the death of two plant workers that night. Moreover, some people died eventually, while some grew up with birth defects.
To clean up the site 134 servicemen came and later was also hospitalized. 28 people died of acute radiation syndrome (ARS) in the following weeks. Moreover, 14 died of radiation-induced cancer within the next ten years. Indeed, the disaster also affected the health of the public in Pripyat and the surrounding area.
When nature reclaimed the abandoned land:
Impact on Foilage:
Soon after the disaster, a pine woodland that spanned around 10 square kilometres was dubbed the Red Forest. The leaves turned brown due to radiation that damaged it. The ground beneath still remains one of the most contaminated parts of the exclusion zone.
However, some plants in other areas have coped well with the of increased radiation.
In the restricted zone of Chernobyl, the soybeans were compared with plants grown 100 kilometres away. The study found that the radiated plants did not thrive though but they have managed to survive. They pump out proteins known to bind heavy metals and reduce chromosomal abnormalities in humans.
The Microbes took advantage of the disaster
The ionizing radiation in the Chernobyl’s inner sanctum has impacted the pigmentation of melanin-rich fungi such as Cryptococcus neoformans, Cladosporium sphaerospermum, and Wangiella dermatitidis to flourish. Research also shows that these fungi tolerated the radiation as well as they’ve fed on it.
In a study in 2014 found that there has been a significant decline in the rate of decomposition of leaf litter at 20 forests around Chernobyl. This indicated a drastic change inside the exclusion zone for its tiniest recyclers.
Impact on bird’s brain and orange feather:
A total number of 550 specimens covering 50 species of birds were studied, which found that radiation has impacted on the bird’s neurological development, with a significant drop in brain volume. This has led to a decline in the population of birds which accounts mostly females. The radiation has impacted those species who had carotenoid colouration and large body masses, suggesting black has become the new orange in Chernobyl bird fashion. Hence, the pheomelanin that the biochemistry produces also depletes the body’s supply of antioxidants – a useful family of chemicals to have in large amounts if you want to deal with the damage caused by radiation.
Nature reclaims the abandoned site:
The human free zone of Chernobyl is a home to the mass of mammals that made a quick return to the forests.
In the mid-1990s studies show that mice and voles in population sizes across the zone’s boundary did not vary.
Larger animals, including deer and boar, have also bounced back in recent decades. Wolves have dominated the place as there are seven times more wolves inside the zone than outside.
In the words of University of Portsmouth researcher Jim Smith, “This doesn’t mean radiation is good for wildlife, just that the effects of human habitation, including hunting, farming, and forestry, are a lot worse.”
The Babushkas of Chernobyl
Despite the fact, the exclusion zone prohibits any human habitation some 1,000 people returned to call the radiated land home in the ensuing months. The population mostly include elderly women these so-called “Babushkas of Chernobyl”. The Babushkas are vanishing people where barely one in ten of those returned citizens remain. There is no evidence of the direct consequence of their toxic surroundings behind the dwindling numbers.