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Chernobyl Nuclear Meltdown
Chernobyl, Soviet Union (now Ukraine)
April 26, 1986
An unexpected surge in power during a routine safety check caused a rupture in the plant reactor's fuel elements. A large explosion resulted and the reactor's fuel rod's melted; the graphite covering the reactor ignited and burned for more than a week.
Large amounts of radiation were released, causing the deaths of more than 50 people and the permanent relocation of more than 350,000 others. To date, it is the only nuclear accident that has been classified a "major accident" by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
The longterm impact:
According to the World Health Organization around 4,000 cases of thyroid cancer have been linked to the incident and around 5 million people in the former Soviet Union have been affected by radiation from the accident.
In the years following the explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, there was an increase in malformations of newly-born children in the Ukraine and Belarus. Many of these children were subsequently abandoned by their parents and left in special-care institutions. (Photo: Igor Kostin/Sygma/Corbis)
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