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Chernobyl: The Design of Disaster

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The recent nuclear disaster in Japan has resurrected the memories of Chernobyl in the public’s imagination. The 1986 disaster of the Ukrainian reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant is still regarded as the worst nuclear disaster in history, although the Japanese crisis is still unfolding. The Chernobyl disaster “was the product of a flawed Soviet reactor design coupled with serious mistakes made by the plant operators. It was a direct consequence of Cold War isolation and the resulting lack of any safety culture” (“Chernobyl,” WNA, 2011). In 1987 an important article appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The author, Roger E. Linnemann, MD, had this to say about the accident: The four operating units were graphite -moderated, water cooled reactors... unlike the water-moderated, water-cooled reactor favored in the West. Because of their confidence in the design of the reactor, the Soviets did not enclose the entire unit with a containment structure and had not developed either an off-site emergency plan or employed an off-site monitoring system. (637) Additionally, contrary to safety regulations, a combustible material called bitumen had been used in the construction of the roofs on the reactor building and the turbine hall. The uncontained explosion of a nuclear reactor from the safety test had just impacted the world, and the resulting roof fires threatened the adjacent reactor. The incident occurred when the reactor crew attempted to carry out a safety test involving one of the plant's eight turbine-generators. The specific test the crew was conducting was to “determine how long turbines could spin and continue to supply power following loss of the primary electrical power supply. Simil... ... middle of paper ... ...ense at troubled reactors.” The New York Times. March 16, 2011. [March 12, 2011] http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/16/world/asia/16workers.html?_r=1&hp “Chernobyl.” Freedom For Fission Organization (FFFO). November 2006. [March 12, 2011] http://www.freedomforfission.org.uk/acc/chernobyl.html “The Chernobyl Accident.” World Nuclear Association (WNA). March 2011. [March 12, 2011] http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/chernobyl/inf07.html Gillette, Robert. “Chernobyl design flaws.” The LA Times. August 23, 1986. [March 12, 2011] http://articles.latimes.com/1986-08-23/news/mn-15781_1_design-flaws Kubiszewski, Ida & Cutler Cleveland. “Chernobyl, Ukraine.” Encyclopedia of Earth. 2009. [March 12, 2011] http://www.eoearth.org/article/Chernobyl,_Ukraine Linnemann, Rodger. “Soviet medical response to the Chernobyl nuclear accident.” JAMA (1987): 258.5: 637.
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