Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster

The Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster happened in April 1986 in Chernobyla Ukraine. It was the product of a flawed Soviet reactor design coupled with serious mistakes made by the plant operators.

This nuclear power plant accident was a direct consequence of Cold War isolation and the resulting lack of any safety culture. It was the result of a flawed reactor design that was operated with inadequately trained personnel.

An interesting outcome of this horrible man made disaster is the lessons learned about using Potassium Idodide to conteract the effects of radiation. See below for more information on these findings.

Lost City of Chernobyl

The resulting steam explosion and fires released at least 5% of the radioactive reactor core into the atmosphere and downwind.

Two Chernobyl plant workers died on the night of the accident, and a further 28 people died within a few weeks as a result of acute radiation poisoning.

UNSCEAR says that apart from increased thyroid cancers, "there is no evidence of a major public health impact attributable to radiation exposure 20 years after the accident."

Today the area still remains radioactive and there is a 30 kilometer zone, known as the "Exclusion Zone" or "Zone of Alienation", that surrounds this Soviet nuclear power station where few venture inside.

Impact of the Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster

According to the World Nuclear Association 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 thrombosis.

Acute radiation syndrome (ARS) was originally diagnosed in 237 people on-site 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 subsequently died between 1987 and 2004 but their deaths cannot necessarily be attributed to radiation exposure. Nobody off-site suffered from acute radiation effects although a large proportion of childhood thyroid cancers diagnosed since the accident is likely to be due to intake of radioactive iodine fallout.

Furthermore, large areas of Belarus, Ukraine, Russia and beyond were contaminated in varying degrees. Click here to read more about this event.

Videos of the Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster


Lessons Learned about Potassium Idodide

For the reasons discussed above, the Chernobyl data provide the most reliable information available to date on the relationship between internal thyroid radioactive dose and cancer risk.

They suggest that the risk of thyroid cancer is inversely related to age, and that, especially in young children, it may accrue at very low levels of radio iodine exposure.

After careful review of the data from Chernobyl relating estimated thyroid radiation dose and cancer risk in exposed children, FDA is revising its recommendation for administration of KI based on age, predicted thyroid exposure, and pregnancy and lactation status.

The protective effect of KI lasts approximately 24 hours. For optimal prophylaxis, KI should therefore be dosed daily, until a risk of significant exposure to radioiodines by either inhalation or ingestion no longer exists.

Individuals intolerant of KI at protective doses, and neonates, pregnant and lactating women (in whom repeat administration of KI raises particular safety issues, see below) should be given priority with regard to other protective measures (i.e., sheltering, evacuation, and control of the food supply).

Click here for additional information
on the FDA findings and guidelines.

Additional Resources

Nuclear Radiation and Health Effects

World Nuclear News