How the Chernobyl Disaster Affected the UK


The 1986 Chernobyl disaster spread misery and destruction across the whole of Ukraine; many lives were tragically lost from the initial explosion and the radiation that snaked across the country, and biodiversity collapsed completely. Less known is the destruction that also travelled over 3,000 km and doomed Welsh farms here in the UK too.

On the 26th April 1986, a safety check on Chernobyl went horrendously wrong. A lack of power to the reactor meant less water was running through the core and after the control rods jammed the pressure built so much that a devastating explosion followed. This, in turn, caused another explosion and fires that burned strong for 10 days, as a result, harmful radionuclides (radioactive material) was dispersed around Chernobyl and beyond. Citizens were evacuated from Chernobyl and nearby cities over 30 hours after the disaster, people were forced to abandon their homes and to this day have not returned. Survival rates of plants dropped dramatically, and hundreds of helpless people were exposed to such high levels of radiation that they developed cancers.

Credit: Yves Alarie on Unsplash

Radioactive particles were carried by clouds to wales where the radioactive particles were washed down onto the land in heavy rainfall. The plants absorbed the harmful radionuclides (which included high amounts of Caesium-137) and livestock consumed the contaminated plants. As a result, a profuse amount of crops were ruined and had to be destroyed. More concerning was the effect this contamination had on the animals grazing on the land.

Thousands of sheep and cows were affected and unsuitable for sale, causing an economic crisis for many welsh farms, Affected livestock had to be monitored vigorously for years after to ensure the levels of radioactivity in them was not exceeding a safety threshold, thousands of livestock failed.

Although farmers were paid some compensation, this was by no means enough to atone for the sheer amount of ruined, unprofitable livestock, not to mention the distrust and concern in the Welsh meat that, some claim, still remains today. Farmers struggled to maintain their properties and some families were forced to relocate. Not only did this effect are food supply in the UK, but unfortunately some of the livestock fell victim to the harmful levels of radiation they unknowingly consumed. Radiation sickness and radiation-related-cancers claimed the lives of many innocent animals and people here in the UK.

It wasn’t until 2012 that restrictions were finally removed on Welsh farms – over 25 years later. Now in 2019, the Chernobyl tragedy serves as a haunting reminder that, although a greener alternative than fossil fuels, nuclear power plants must be monitored closely and be subject to regular safety inspections, because we now know that its not just the surrounding area that can fall victim to a nuclear explosion, but a country thousands of miles away that is just as vulnerable.


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