Chernobyl: The Design of Disaster Essay

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The recent nuclear disaster in Japan has resurrected the memories of Chernobyl in the public’s imagination. The 1986 disaster of the Ukrainian reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant is still regarded as the worst nuclear disaster in history, although the Japanese crisis is still unfolding. The Chernobyl disaster “was the product of a flawed Soviet reactor design coupled with serious mistakes made by the plant operators. It was a direct consequence of Cold War isolation and the resulting lack of any safety culture” (“Chernobyl,” WNA, 2011). In 1987 an important article appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The author, Roger E. Linnemann, MD, had this to say about the accident:
The four operating units
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During the test the operators had also disabled automatic shutdown mechanisms.
The crew unintentionally let steam voids form in the reactor's cooling water as it passed through the core. One of the flaws of the reactor design was its tendency to generate a sudden and uncontrollable burst of power if large steam voids are allowed to form in the reactor core, as happened during the test (Gillette 1986). In addition to the documented problem of the steam voids inherent in the design, poor manual operation of the reactor had caused the reactor to be in an even more unstable state than usual.
As the fission accelerated, the reactor's heat output rose 330 million watts within three seconds. This triggered explosions of steam and hydrogen gas in the core that destroyed the reactor, blew the roof off the building, and started a graphite fire in the core that spewed radioactive wastes into the atmosphere for the next 11 days. (Gillette 1986) After the dramatic power surge occurred, and the ensuing steam and hydrogen explosion that destroyed the reactor core and killed several workers, there was a second explosion. This caused the graphite moderator to burst into flames, which was the main cause of the release of radioactivity into the environment (Kubiszewski & Cleveland 2009). According to Freedom for Fussion Organization, the lack of a steel reinforcement concrete containment
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