Why a Chernobyl-like Financial Disaster is Inescapable
In the early morning hours of April 26, 1986 – roughly 33 years ago – things went horribly wrong in the town of Pripyat, in northern Soviet Ukraine. Reactor No. 4 at the V. I. Lenin Nuclear Power Plant, also known as the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, was overwhelmed by an uncontrolled reaction. There was no stopping it.
Chernobyl after the explosion (left) and today (right), encased in a steel sarcophagus. [PT]
Two initial explosions blew the top off the reactor. Once exposed, plumes of fission matter were wafted into the atmosphere by an open-air graphite fire. Before long, this radioactive material precipitated onto Western Europe and the Western USSR.
Nine days later the fire was finally contained. But not before an estimated 400 times more radioactive material was released than from the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Twenty-eight firemen and operators died from acute radiation syndrome in the following days and months.
A discovery channel documentary on the Chernobyl disaster [PT]
What exactly caused the Chernobyl disaster is still a matter of disagreement. The first official explanation of the accident was later acknowledged to be erroneous. But there is agreement on the fact that the nuclear disaster would not have happened when it did if the workers had played hooky and gone fishing.
Instead, an ill-planned late-night safety test to simulate a power-failure set in motion the very chain reaction that led to the disaster. During the experiment, the emergency safety and power-regulating systems were both intentionally turned off. Then the operators attempted to boost the reactor output; a violation of the approved test procedure. Soon after, all control was lost…
A Moment of Silence
Most accounts we’ve come across assign equal blame to human error and reactor design flaws. The shortsighted engineers failed to idiot proof the nuclear power plant for the operators. The operators succeeded at being idiots. Should we expect anything different?
Here at the Economic Prism we’re zealot aficionados of disaster – especially the human induced variety.