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MOSCOW, April 26 (Itar-Tass) —— Mankind will always remember the Chernobyl tragedy. On this day 26 years ago, one of the units of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant exploded, spurting out a large amount of radioactive substances into the environment.
Specialists say that this is the worst nuclear accident in the history of atomic power industry both by the number of casualties and economic damage.
There is no alternative to nuclear power generation, but nuclear physicists and reactor designers have to take into account the Chernobyl lessons and do their best to prevent such tragedies in the future.
Ukraine’s first three-unit Chernobyl nuclear power plant was built in the 1970s. A radioactive cloud after the explosion on April 26, 1986 passed across the European part of the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, Scandinavia, Britain and eastern part of the United States. About 60 percent of radioactive fallout occurred in Belarus. About 200,000 people were evacuated from the contaminated areas.
Fallout of 190 tonnes of radioactive substances was one of the consequences of the nuclear accident in Soviet Ukraine. Eight out of 140 tonnes of the fuel from the exploded reactor had erupted into the air. People at Chernobyl were exposed to radiation 90 times stronger than that after the bombing of Hiroshima, and an area of 160,000 square kilometres was contaminated with radiation.
In addition to Ukraine and Belarus, 19 Russian regions with a population of 2.6 million people were contaminated.
In 2006, the Blacksmith Institute in the U.S. published a list of the most polluted places in the world. Chernobyl topped the list. Now Chernobyl is a virtually abandoned place where only workers contracted to work at the power plant on a rotating basis living there. Before the accident, the population of the city was 12,500.
After the accident on unit No. 4, the power plant’s operation was suspended. Following large-scale decontamination and cleanup efforts and the construction of a casing over the exploded reactor, units 1 and 2 were put into operation again, and unit 3 resumed operation in December 1987.
In December 1995, the Ukrainian government, the G8 governments and the European Commission signed a memorandum of understanding and set up a programme for the closure of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant by 2000. In December of 2011, unit no. 3 was put out of operation and stopped.
In March 2004, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development announced a tender for designing, construction and commissioning of a new shelter for the power plant that should be placed over the existing casing that is slowly falling apart. Specialists say that its disintegration may release large amounts of radiation currently held under the casing.
Ukrainian mass media reports say that the tender winner, a joint venture of two French companies, NOVARKA, will start building a new shelter shortly and guarantee that it will ensure safety for the next 100 years.