On April 26, 1986, an explosion and fire at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine caused radioactive fallout to begin spewing into the atmosphere. (Dozens of people were killed in the immediate aftermath of the disaster while the long-term death toll from radiation poisoning is believed to number in the thousands.)
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 is reported to have died at the time from a coronary thrombosiscs.
Acute radiation syndrome (ARS) was originally diagnosed in 237 people onsite and involved with the clean-up 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 workers subsequently died between 1987 and 2004, but their deaths cannot necessarily be attributed to radiation exposured. Nobody offsite suffered from acute radiation effects although a significant, but uncertain, fraction of the thyroid cancers diagnosed since the accident in patients who were children at the time are likely to be due to intake of radioactive iodine falloutm,9. Furthermore, large areas of Belarus, Ukraine, Russia, and beyond were contaminated in varying degrees.
See also sections below and Chernobyl Accident Appendix 2: Health Impacts .The Chernobyl disaster was a unique event and the only accident in the history of commercial nuclear power where radiation-related fatalities occurrede. The design of the reactor is unique and in that respect the accident is thus of little relevance to the rest of the nuclear industry outside the then Eastern Bloc. However, it led to major changes in safety culture and in industry cooperation, 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.