*Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons
In the western Soviet Union, 60 miles north of the Ukrainian capital Kiev, darkness exploded at 1:23am on April 26, 1986. During a routine test, an error by the technical team led reactor Unit 4 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant to experience a horrifying accident. Less than a decade after the less-serious incident at the Three Mile Island facility in Pennsylvania, the safety of nuclear power was once again called into question — and, thanks to dangerous levels of secrecy, the Soviet Union was soon facing condemnation from every corner of the globe.
The third RBMK-1000 nuclear reactor commissioned by the Soviet government, construction on the V.I. Lenin Nuclear Power Station at Chernobyl began in 1970. The six-reactor design — a rather basic layout created for the sake of saving money just as much as producing power — represented a leap forward from the plants built only 15 years before.
Focused on pinching pennies, officials in Moscow came up with a cookie-cutter structure with a minimum of moving parts to make maintenance as simple as possible. In addition, the design allowed the plants to use natural uranium to generate power instead of the more expensive enriched version, resulting in an overall cost savings of some 75 percent when compared to heavy water reactors built elsewhere in the world. …(Read more)