Since the use of civilian nuclear energy began in the early 50's, hundreds of less or more serious incidents have occurred in nuclear reactors scattered around the world.
Three of these major incidents have marked the history and life of millions of people, past, present and future.
These incidents are Mayak and Chernobyl in the former Soviet Union and Fukushima in Japan.
This work wants to focus on the social, economical, health and environmental legacy of those nuclear accidents, tracing the history and consequences of the three mayor nuclear accidents happened in the world.
(The Ukraine, 2014-2015)
On April 26, 1986 at 1:24 a.m. a disastrous event occurred, the worst technological catastrophe of the modern age, which blighted the lives of millions of people. That night reactor number four of the Chernobyl nuclear power station exploded. The explosion unleashed tons of radioactive dust into the air, where, transported by winds it contaminated both hemispheres of our planet, settling wherever it rained. Almost the whole of Europe was fouled and 65 million people were contaminated. It is estimated that the most contaminated areas stretching over 260.000 square kilometers of land, (almost as large as Italy) will return to normal radioactive levels in about one hundred thousand years time. Almost 30 years have gone by, so we have another ninety – nine thousand, nine hundred and seventy to go …
On the 11th March 2011 one of the most violent earthquakes ever, followed by a devastating tsunami, hit Japan and the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, damaging its security and cooling systems. Over the course of a few days the core of reactors 1, 2 and 3 started to melt, releasing massive quantities of radioactive material into the air and ocean.
Despite the massive contamination, life still goes on within the “No-Go Zone” and in that sort of “nuclear limbo” spreading 60 km outside the no go zone, where people do not know whether to stay, and learn to live with the radiation, or leave forever.
The story is far from over, and it’s going to take a lot more before we understand what will be the real consequences of the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl.
What happened in Mayak is one of the most serious ecological disasters caused by man, but it has been forgotten too quickly.
It was the first major nuclear accident and caused radioactive contamination 20 times that of Chernobyl. Mayak nuclear plant is situated in the Urals in the Chelyabinsk region, about 1,500 kilometres from Moscow. It was built in 1948 to create the plutonium needed to build the first soviet atom bomb. The story of Mayak is rather complicated: there were in fact three main accidents.
The first one happened between 1949 and 1952, when the Mayak plant poured all the radioactive waste into the river Techa, obviously including highly radioactive waste. In 1950 the population started to become ill with cancer and there was an increase in the instances of genetic malformation. 70% of the population suffered from Leukaemia. Between 1951 and 1961 twenty-five villages on the river Techa were evacuated and destroyed.
The second accident happened on the 29th September 1957: an underground radioactive liquid waste tank exploded when the cooling system failed. A population of 270 thousand people and a total surface area of 23 thousand square kilometres were contaminated with plutonium and strontium. The area of radioactive pollution is now called EURT (East Ural Radioactive Trace).
The third accident happened in 1967. The Karachay Lake, near the Mayak nuclear plant, had been used constantly for dumping radioactive waste. In 1967, following a hot summer and a drought, the edge of the Karachay Lake dried up. A violent storm carried radioactive dust from the lakebed and spread it to contaminate an area of 2,200km and about 400 thousand people. No one was evacuated.
More than 60 years have gone by and the nuclear plant in Mayak is still open. The people who live in the contaminated areas are absorbing plutonium, caesium, and strontium into their bodies while the plant keeps dumping radioactive material into the river Techa.