Chernobyl Facts
Chernobyl Facts

25 Shocking Chernobyl Facts

Karin Lehnardt
By Karin Lehnardt, Senior Writer
Published July 17, 2018Updated August 3, 2019
  • The World Health Organization estimates that 30,000 deaths can be attributed to the Chernobyl disaster. Over seven million people have been exposed to radiation from the accident.[2]
  • The first person to die in the Chernobyl accident was Valery Khodemchuk, a plant worker who was monitoring the water pumps to the nuclear core.[2]
  • Radioactive dust from the Chernobyl disaster reached across northern and western Europe and even as far as the eastern United States.[2]
  • While the explosion took place in 1986, officials say it could take up to 100 years before Chernobyl is completely decommissioned.[2]
  • The Chernobyl explosion unleashed at least 400 times more radioactive fallout than the bomb the United States dropped on Hiroshima in 1945.[2]
  • Nuclear rain from the Chernobyl disaster fell as far west as Ireland.[5]
  • Pripyat Fact
    The once-thriving city of Pripyat, which housed many of the nuclear facility’s workers, became a ghost town overnight.
  • The nearest town to Chernobyl was the newly built city Pripyat. It will take 3,000 years for Pripyat to be considered safe for human habitation again.[2]
  • Birds around Chernobyl have significantly smaller brains than those living in non-radiation poisoned areas.[6]
  • Trees living around Chernobyl grow slower than their non-irradiated counterparts. Additionally, there are fewer spiders and insects around Chernobyl.[6]
  • Game animals, even those that live outside of the exclusion zone, including some caught as far away as Germany, still show abnormal and dangerous levels of radiation.[6]
  • After the Chernobyl disaster, one nearby forest, now known as the "Red Forest," turned a reddish color and died. However, even 15–20 years after the meltdown, the trees have not decayed.[6]
  • Soviet authorities allegedly forced thousands of pregnant women within the 18.6 mile (30-kilometer) exclusion zone to get an abortion after the disaster.[7]
  • Six months after the explosion, workers built a make-shift cover for the reactor to protect the environment from radiation for at least 30 years. Called the "Sarcophagus," the cover has now developed cracks, triggering an international effort to create a new encasement.[2]
  • Show me a fantasy novel about Chernobyl--there isn't one! Because reality is more fantastic.

    - Svetlana Alexievich, Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster 

  • Today, Chernobyl has become one of the world's most unique wildlife areas. Populations of eagles, beavers, wolves, and deer live in the abandoned area around Chernobyl.[2]
  • No one is sure how many people died directly from the Chernobyl accident. Estimates range from 4,000 to 93,000.[7]
  • Twenty-eight firefighters and clean-up workers died within three months of the Chernobyl disaster, all from acute radiation sickness.[7]
  • The "Elephant's Foot" is an extremely radioactive material formed during the Chernobyl accident. When the foot first formed, exposure to it for just 60 seconds would kill someone. Now, 500 seconds is the lethal time. It will remain radioactive for over 100,000 years.[3]
  • Elephant Foot Chernobyl
    "The Elephant's Foot" is beneath Reactor 4 of the Chernobyl facility

  • Although the Chernobyl accident occurred in Ukraine, Belarus received about 70% of the contamination.[2]
  • Three men, nicknamed the "Suicide Squad," prevented a steam explosion after the initial Chernobyl accident. That explosion would have destroyed the entire Chernobyl plant and rendered all of Europe uninhabitable for hundreds of years.[4]
  • The firemen who were on duty and helped contain the Chernobyl explosion were not informed about the dangers. They all died a few days after the explosion.[2]
  • "A Chernobyl necklace" is the horizontal scar left on the base of the neck after surgery to remove cancer on the thyroid. It is so named because the rate of thyroid cancer increased after the Chernobyl disaster in Belarus, Ukraine, Russia, and Poland.[2]
  • Chernobyl Necklace
    After the Chernobyl disaster, incidents of thyroid cancer among civilians in Belarus, Ukraine, Russia, and Poland rose sharply

  • Approximately 200 tons of radioactive materials are still inside the reactor.[2]
  • The world only found out about the Chernobyl disaster after a radiation detector went off in Sweden. The Soviet Union tried to hide it until then.[2]
  • Above-ground nuclear weapons testing in the 1950s and 1960s released between 100 and 1,000 times more radiation into the environment than Chernobyl did.[8]
  • The Chernobyl explosion is one of only two nuclear energy accidents classified as a level 7 on the International Nuclear Event Scale. The other is the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan in 2011.[1]
  • Three Nuclear Accidents Compared [2]
    Three Mile IslandChernobylFukushima Daiichi
    Date of AccidentMarch 28, 1979April 26, 1986March 11, 2011
    LocationNear Harrisburg, PAUkraine (former USSR)Japan
    IAEA Nuclear Event Scale Rating5 (Accident with wider consquences) 7 (Major accident)7 (Major accident)
    Nature of incidentEquipment malfunction caused by cooling water level drop, exposing the nuclear fuelFailed Test, power surge caused reactor to explode, graphite fire spread radioactive smokeDamage from tsunami caused failure of cooling system
    Reactor vessel breachNo YesMost likely
    Reactor core meltingAbout 1/3 of the core meltedExplosion and signficinant meltingMost likely meltodown in several reactors
    Cause of IncidentMechanical failure and human errorHuman errorTsunami caused failure of cooling system
    Release of radiation into environment MinimalConsiderableConsiderable
    Reactors involved11Multiple reactors and spent pools
    Deaths directly attributed to accident036+0
    Mind-Blowing Chernobyl Facts INFOGRAPHIC
    Chernobyl Facts

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