On This Day, April 26, 1986 – The Cernobyl Nuclear Disaster


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1986 – The world’s worst nuclear disaster to date occurred at Chernobyl, in Kiev. Thirty-one people died in the incident and thousands more were exposed to radioactive material.

The April 1986 disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine was the product of a flawed Soviet reactor design coupled with serious mistakes made by the plant operators.  It was a direct consequence of Cold War isolation and the resulting lack of any safety culture.

The accident destroyed the Chernobyl 4 reactor, killing 30 operators and firemen within three months and several further deaths later. One person was killed immediately and a second died in hospital soon after as a result of injuries received. Another person was reported to have died at the time from a coronary thrombosisc. Acute radiation syndrome (ARS) was originally diagnosed in 237 people on-site and it was later confirmed in 134 cases. Of these, 28 people died as a result of ARS within a few weeks of the accident. Nineteen more subsequently died between 1987 and 2004 but their deaths cannot necessarily be attributed to radiation exposured. Furthermore, large areas of Belarus, Ukraine, Russia and beyond were contaminated in varying degrees.

The Chernobyl disaster was a unique event and the only accident in the history of commercial nuclear power where radiation-related fatalities occurred. However, it led to major changes in safety culture and ndustry cooperationin i, particularly between East and West before the end of the Soviet Union. Former President Gorbachev said that the Chernobyl accident was a more important factor in the fall of the Soviet Union than Perestroika – his program of liberal reform.

1478 – Pazzi conspirators attacked Lorenzo and killed Giuliano de’Medici.

1514 – Copernicus made his first observations of Saturn.

1607 – The British established an American colony at Cape Henry, Virginia. It was the first permanent English establishment in the Western Hemisphere.

1819 – The first Odd Fellows lodge in the U.S. was established in Baltimore, MD.

1865 – Joseph E. Johnston surrendered the Army of Tennessee to Sherman during the American Civil War.

1865 – John Wilkes Booth was killed by Federal Cavalry.

1906 – In Hawaii, motion pictures were shown for the first time.

1921 – Weather broadcasts were heard for the first time on radio in St. Louis.

1929 – First non-stop flight from England to India was completed.

1931 – New York Yankee Lou Gehrig hit a home run but was called out for passing a runner.

1931 – NBC premiered “Lum and Abner.” It was on the air for 24 years.

1937 – German planes attacked Guernica, Spain, during the Spanish Civil War.

1937 – “LIFE” magazine was printed without the word “LIFE” on the cover.

1941 – An organ was played at a baseball stadium for the first time in Chicago.

1952 – Patty Berg set a new record for major women’s golf competition when she shot a 64 over 18 holes in a tournament in Richmond, CA.

1954 – Grace Kelly was on the cover of “LIFE” magazine.

1964 – The Boston Celtics won their sixth consecutive NBA title. They won two more before the streak came to an end.

1968 – Students seized the administration building at Ohio State University.

Sources: On-This-Day.com; World-Nuclear.com