It is, by far, the worst nuclear disaster in history. It is the worst disaster not so much because of the known carnage but because of the almost immeasurable environmental impact in its aftermath.
A very wise high school teacher of mine, a former Soviet scientist herself, once said that measuring the lasting affects of Chernobyl would prove as difficult as weighing a single grain of salt against the combined weight of the salt in the seas. How does one, exactly, measure a man-made disaster that refuses to respect man-made borders, laws, and treaties?
Growing up in the Northern Hemisphere, along the Eastern Seaboard of the United States, I'm fairly certain that I was exposed to at least some fallout from the disaster, thousands of miles away from ground zero. Can anyone really offer me - or anybody else - irrefutable proof that the minute increase in radioactive materials swimming around in the atmosphere above me really didn't do any long-term damage?
C'est la vie. We are all victims of Chernobyl, whether we want to admit it or not.
Thousands of Soviet firefighters and containment workers risked (some of whom lost) their lives to help keep the disaster from being much worse. If they hadn't, who knows what the death toll would've been?
- Federman, Adam. "Remembering Chernobyl." The Nation (Web Only), April 25, 2006.
- Mulvey, Stephen. "Chernobyl's continuing hazards." BBC News (Online), April 25, 2006.
- Soric, Miodrag. "Chernobyl -- an Insidious Legacy." Deutsche Welle. Online. April 26, 2006.
- Voice of America. "20 Years after Chernobyl." VOA Online. April 2006.
Chernobyl, Disaster, Energy, Environment, Firefighters, History, Soviet Union