What Happened to Chernobyl?

At the end of April 1986, people in Ukraine were preparing to have their annual May Day celebrations. On TV, they told the news about some breakdown on Chernobyl nuclear power plant, but the authorities reassured them that it was just a typical trouble.

At that time, the nuclear power plant was burning from inside, realizing the unprecedented amount of radiation into the open air and letting it travel around the globe.

What Happened to Chernobyl?

In a few days, residents of Pripyat were ordered to leave their homes urgently. “Don’t take anything except for the documents and vital medicines”, they were hearing. And they left, without knowing that they were to never come back.

In this article, we tell about the most dreadful human-induced disaster of all time: the Chernobyl nuclear power plant explosion. If you are interested in what happened to cause Chernobyl disaster, keep on reading!

Night of the Explosion

The accident occurred on April 26, 1986, at 1.23 a.m. Reactor number 4 of the nuclear power plant exploded during the testing of the protection system. Tests were designed to check whether the protection system would be able to support electricity generation in the event of two emergencies. The test failed.

By a fatal coincidence, the electricity supply to the station was not stable, and the test went wrong. At 1 a.m., a rapid increase in power in the reactor began, and in 20 seconds there was an explosion. The reactor core was destroyed, and an incredibly large amount of radiation escaped freely into the night air.

Observers in Pripyat

The firefighters were called in to extinguish the fire since no one knew the scale of the disaster. These were the first liquidators. They woke up their families who, after seeing a beautiful vision of radiation escaping into the air, wanted to see it.

Hundreds of people came out to the bridge now called the Bridge of Death. These were the first human casualties of the Chernobyl disaster.

Following Days

It was only 14 hours after what happened to Chernobyl that the situation was understood: at 3 p.m. station workers and invited experts realized that the reactor core has in fact exploded. The second wave of liquidators was brought it.

Four people were supposed to enter the reactor building and open the valves to drain the water from the reactor protection system. At this stage of the catastrophe, the water could only be damaged, and the automatic systems failed. They received all possible radiation protection equipment, but they were in close contact with radioactive elements.

Debris Clean Up

Another group of liquidators had to remove the graphite debris from the reactor roof. The best machinery available at the time, robots MF-2, MF-3, STR-1, and Mobot failed to do the clean-up because of radiation exposure, so people were brought in.

One man was supposed to work only for 90 seconds since just one more second would expose him to a fatal dose of radiation. These liquidators were called biorobots, which is a very ironic way to call these heroes.

Animal Elimination

We can’t omit the soldiers who were sent to Pripyat and surrounding villages to kill the animals. It was believed that the animals could transmit the radiation over great distances. The soldiers had no protective equipment, but they were spending days and nights very close to the open reactor.


Miners at Chernobyl were called in a couple of days after the explosion. There was a fear that the molten core would burn into the ground poisoning the groundwaters and the Black Sea. The miners were supposed to dig under the reactor and install the cooling machinery what would reduce the temperature.

Miners worked for six weeks without any protective equipment, sometimes even naked. The radiation they received was very high, but they are rarely mentioned in the list of liquidators, so not many people know what happened to the Chernobyl miners.

What Happened to the Other Reactors at Chernobyl?

The disaster has passed, leaving us to deal with its consequences. The majority of people believe that the power plant has been shut down, but the truth is different. It doesn’t produce any electricity for general use, but it is impossible to stop the activities right away.

However, what happened to the other reactors at Chernobyl? Now the program of performance shutdown is being put in place. It has to take 65 years, starting from the year 2000. The employers still work there to implement the program.

What Happened to Chernobyl Liquidators?

This question is being asked very often. In fact, it is interesting to know the fates of people who saved us by their heroic acts. Here is what happened to them.


Almost every firefighter that went to the nuclear power plant that fatal night was dead in a few days. They were too close to the open reactor and the radiation to survive it. There is no data about firefighter survivors, but their families are eager to talk about their heroes.

Liquidators of the First Days

Those people who entered the reactor building to open the water valves and those who cleaned the debris from the reactor roof were drastically damaged by the radiation they were exposed to. None of them has died right after the explosion, but their lives were still shortened.

According to the BBC calculations, 70% of liquidators were diagnosed with cancer and had to live with constant medical intake. 20% died in the 10 years following the disaster from different diseases. Some researchers suggest they also had cancer, but at that time there was no possibility to diagnose it properly.


The soldiers sent to Chernobyl to kill the animals and look after the liquidation team also were exposed to high amounts of radiation. They didn’t have direct contact with the reactor core, so they lived longer, but the majority of them were diagnosed with cancer anyway.

Besides, some soldiers, mostly young men, ended up having mental disturbances and had to leave the armed forces earlier than usual.

What Happened to the Chernobyl Miners?

This group of liquidators is often neglected in general calculations, but the Chernobyl series released in 2019 by HBO reminded us of them. 400 miners were brought to the disaster epicenter. 30% of them died of cancer which is not a high indicator, if compared to other liquidator groups.

The most widespread influence the digging had on miners was hair loss: almost all were bald in just a couple of years. Many became more susceptible to diseases like cold and flu.

The Chernobyl disaster resulted in the consequences we deal with nowadays, and there is no light at the end of the tunnel. No one can bring all dead people back or restore the lost health of others. The homes lost by exclusion zone native residents will not be someone’s homes quite for a while. The most dreadful thing about this disaster is that it was made by humans. We need to be more aware of our actions in the future.