1986 was also the year of the Chernobyl catastrophe. The disaster happened on April 26, 1986. It was the largest accident in the history of nuclear power. The explosion occurred in the fourth reactor in the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, near the city of Pripyat. Pripyat is located about 120 kilometers (62 miles) north of Kiev, the capital of Ukraine. That night, an experiment was carried out to measure the inertial rotation of a turbine generator. Overheating of the fuel caused the destruction of the reactor core. Another set of circumstances was also the cause of the nuclear catastrophe: first, the reactor had to be shut down before the experiment. However, it was decided to postpone its shutdown for later; second, less experienced specialists were involved during the night shift.
The Chernobyl disaster caused the largest uncontrolled radioactive release into the environment ever recorded for any civilian operation. Large quantities of radioactive substances were released into the air for about ten days, with the depositing of radioactive materials in many parts of the USSR and other countries in Europe. This accident caused serious social and economic disruption for large populations in Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia. Two radionuclides, the short-lived iodine-131 and the long-lived cesium-137, were particularly significant for the radiation dose they delivered to members of the public.
The Soviet government did not immediately inform the civilian population about this accident, and on May 1st, people in Kiev and other cities, without knowing about the danger, went to the May 1st demonstration, an annual holiday event in the Soviet Union. Pripyat became a ghost city after the entire population of the city—around 50,000 people—were evacuated. All of these we know very well in the present day, but at the time we went to Yalta in the summer of 1986, the information was scarce and we did not yet understand the full scale of the Chernobyl disaster.
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