Thirty years ago this week, a catastrophic nuclear accident took place. Thousands have died as a result, communities were devastated and displaced, and the legacy of environmental damage lives on.
During routine activity at the Chernobyl nuclear power station there was an unexpected power surge. As workers struggled to manage the surge, a fire started after the reactor was exposed to air.
Chernobyl was located in the Western Soviet Union, just inside the Ukrainian border. The impact of the accident was felt in Belarus, Russia and eventually as far afield as western Europe as large amounts of radiation spread out through the air. The environmental and agricultural consequences continued in Britain for decades.
The result was a catastrophe for the local population. The nearest city Pripyat had to be completely evacuated and hundreds of thousands of people were permanently relocated. The environmental damage means that huge areas today are still unfit for human habitation. The radiation led to high levels of child thyroid cancer and leukaemia in the affected areas.
Chernobyl was part of a long series of nuclear accidents that have continued up to today. In the UK we had our own major accident in 1959 at Windscale (now known as Sellafield) from which radiation spread across Europe. In 1979 there was a partial reactor meltdown on Three Mile Island, and last month we marked the 5 year anniversary of the horrific Fukushima disaster in Japan.
After Fukushima a number of countries - Germany most notable amongst them - finally made the wise decision to break with nuclear power production. Sadly, others including our own government, have failed to learn the obvious lesson of Chernobyl and the other disasters: that nuclear power is simply too dangerous to continue using. Attempts to build new nuclear power stations across Europe are fraught with problems, accidents and escalating expense. Increasing evidence shows that such facilities are detrimental to human health even on the basis of normal functioning. It's time for the British government to face up to this reality and abandon their support for a new generation of nuclear power stations. Many clean and sustainable energy forms now exist and there is no conceivable case for continuing with nuclear power production.
In memory of the victims of Chernobyl and all other nuclear accidents, this disastrous technology should be abandoned now.
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