The seemingly limitless power of the atom has been exploited by scientist around the world ever since the Enola Gay flew over Hiroshima on August 6th 1945 and dropped the second atomic bomb, revealing to the world this new form of energy. The key to harnessing the energy from nuclear fission in a stable reaction soon followed, starting the Nuclear age. Russia, emerging as a superpower and major industrial center found special needs for nuclear fission. From the period of 1980-1990, the Russian Federation’s Gross Democratic Product grew 2.8% each year, comparable to the United State’s 2.9% each year. To fuel this growth, the only cheap, affordable, efficient energy production means was nuclear energy. The fission of 1 lb of uranium-235 produces as much energy as 1,500 tons of coal. The Cold War only escalated this demand, and soon, reactors served dual purposes of providing energy, as well as producing weapons grade plutonium. In fact, the first reactors were designed to manufacture plutonium, not to generate electricity. Everything has its flaws though, and nuclear energy was no exception, with one of the heaviest reprucussions in the event of an accident. April 26th, 1986 is an excellent example of that. Chernobyl was not the first nuclear reactor mishap the world has encountered, but it was definitely the worst for many years to come. Previous accidents such as Three Mile Island in the United States, Indian Point near New York, and a partial meltdown at Leningrad predated Chernobyl. However, the 100 million curies of radiation emitted by the RMBK-1000 reactor put Chernobyl on an entirely different scale compared to the previous accidents. Failure to effectively prevent, contain, and effectively respond to the radiation emitted transformed Chernobyl from a nuclear accident, to a nuclear catastrophe. Although the Soviet government’s handling of Chernobyl during and after the catastrophe of April 26th, 1986 was disorganized and ineffective, it was the mistakes made in building and implementation of the facilities that resulted in the magnitude.
Although the reason for the Chernobyl disaster occurred long before the accident happened, the construction and implementation of the reactors is not the only factor involved with the meltdown. The Russians operated on the RMBK-1000 series reactor; four of them were stationed at Chernobyl. Rector number 4 was scheduled to be shut down to allow for routine maintenance the day before. Taking advantage of the shutdown, the plant operators on duty performed a test with the reactor’s residual kinetic energy.
In the general description of the accident offered in the Soviet report, the authors presented the experiment as an attempt to test the possibility of utilizing the mechanical energy of the rotor in a turbogenerator, cut off from the steam supply, to sustain the unit’s own power requirements during failure.
While the test appears legitimate at first sight, several crucial aspects of the test...