Menu
Share
Share this story
Close X
 
Switch to Desktop Site

A look at the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster in numbers

350,000 people were evacuated from the area around Chernobyl, immediately after the world's worst nuclear accident.

View video

This photo taken Wednesday, March 23, 2016 shows abandoned apartment buildings in the town of Pripyat near Chernobyl, Ukraine, with a chimney, left, at the destroyed reactor and a gigantic arch-shape confinement to cover the remnants of the exploded reactor, in the back, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Thirty years after the world’s worst nuclear accident, the Chernobyl nuclear power plant is surrounded by both a hushed desolation and clangorous activity, the sense of a ruined past and a difficult future. The Chernobyl nuclear power plant explosion was only about 60 miles from photographer Efrem Lukatsky's home, but he didn’t learn about it until the next morning from a neighbor. Only a few photographers were allowed to cover the destroyed reactor and desperate cleanup efforts, and all of them paid for it with their health. I went a few months later, and have returned dozens of times.

AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky

View photo

Telling the story of Chernobyl in numbers 30 years later involves dauntingly large figures and others that are even more vexing because they're still unknown. A look at numbers that hint at the scope of the world's worst nuclear accident, the explosion and fire at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant on April 26, 1986:

More than 2 billion euros ($2.25 billion): The amount of money being spent by an internationally funded project to build a long-term shelter over the building containing Chernobyl's exploded reactor. Once the structure is in place, work will begin to remove the reactor and the lava-like radioactive waste.

About these ads

4,762 square kilometers (1,838 square miles): The amount of land around the plant that had to be abandoned because of heavy radiation and fallout, about half of it in Ukraine, where the plant is located, and the rest in Belarus. The area is approximately equal to the size of Rhode Island.

About 600,000 people: Chernobyl's so-called "liquidators," those sent in to fight the fire and clean up the worst of the nuclear plant's contamination. They were all exposed to elevated radiation levels.

About 350,000 people: Those evacuated from the explosion area in the early days after the accident, including all the 45,000 residents of the plant workers' city of Pripyat, or subsequently resettled by the government.

30 workers: Plant employees who died in the explosion or from Acute Radiation Sickness within months.

2 days: The length of time until the world knew anything about the blast. Only after workers at a Swedish nuclear plant detected fallout and then analyzed where it could have come from did a picture of what had happened begin to form. The state-controlled Soviet news media waited nearly three days to acknowledge anything had gone wrong, and even then downplayed its severity.


Follow Stories Like This
Get the Monitor stories you care about delivered to your inbox.