Chernobyl is a town in Ukraine that was the site of a disastrous nuclear accident on April 26, 1986 when a routine test at the nuclear power plant went horribly wrong, and two huge explosions blew the 1,000-ton roof off one of the plant’s reactors, releasing 400 times more radiation than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. The worst nuclear disaster in history killed two workers in the explosion and, within months, at least 28 more would be dead by acute radiation exposure. Eventually, thousands of people would show signs of health effects from the fallout.
The Chernobyl nuclear power plant is located in northern Ukraine, about 80 miles north of Kiev. A small town, Pripyat, was constructed a few miles from the site of the power plant to accommodate workers and their families. Construction of the "V. I. Lenin Nuclear Power Plant" began in 1977, when the country was still part of the Soviet Union. By 1983, four reactors had been completed, and the addition of more reactors was planned in subsequent years.
A routine exercise to test whether an emergency water cooling system would work during a power loss started at 1:23 a.m. on April 26.
Within seconds, an uncontrolled reaction caused pressure to build up in Reactor No. 4. The steam blasted the roof off the reactor, releasing plumes of radiation and chunks of burning, radioactive debris.
A few seconds later, another explosion blew out additional nuclear material. A fire started at the roof of Reactor No. 3, risking a breach at that facility. Automatic safety systems that would normally have kicked in did not do so because they had been shut down prior to the test.
It wasn’t until the next day, April 27, when the government began evacuations of Pripyat’s 50,000 residents. Residents were told they would be away for just a few days, so they took very little with them. Most would never return to their homes.
The Exclusion Zone was established on 2 May 1986 soon after the disaster. The 30 km zone was initially divided into three subzones: the area immediately adjacent to Reactor 4, an area of approximately 10 km radius from the reactor, and the remaining 30 km zone. Protective clothing and available facilities varied between these subzones.
All of the villages and towns inside the Exclusion Zone were evacuated in the days and weeks following the disaster.
This gallery displays photos of various villages inside the 30 km zone and from the town of Chernobyl as well as a few photos taken outside the destroyed reactor No.4 with the new sarcophagus.