On this date 35 years ago, the world’s first nuclear disaster befell Chernobyl and the now-ghost town of Pripyat. Over three decades later, Fox Nation‘s ‘Destination: Chernobyl‘ revisits the site, story, and secrets of the catastrophic event that changed the world.
At 1:23 am on April 26, 1986, the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant – located in the Soviet Republic of Ukraine and considered to have been the pride of the Soviet Union – began what was supposed to be a routine safety test.
What happened in the next 36 seconds would provide a haunting view of the future.
The cooling system in one of the plant’s four reactors failed, resulting in two explosions — just two seconds apart. The outcome was considered tantamount to a nuclear earthquake, and the equivalent of 500 Hiroshima bombs.
The destruction was, and would continue to be, immeasurable.
“No one in the world knew the horrors that were about to unfold,” remarked journalist and Fox News contributor Judith Miller, who visited the site of Chernobyl for the making of the Fox Nation special. “What we saw at Chernobyl still haunts me, just as the accident itself continues to haunt Ukraine.”
18,000 people had been hospitalized in the immediate aftermath. But the clean-up was even deadlier than the initial blasts.
Serhii Plokhii, Director at the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute and guest-expert in the special, noted that when people examine the history of Chernobyl, they learn both heroes and villains partook in the events.
“Among [the] heroes are firefighters…they really did a lot to localize the accident, not to allow the fire to other units,” said Plokhii.
“But they didn’t know that they were fighting a radioactive fire,” he continued.
The heat was far too intense for the firefighters – even in protective clothing – and many died from their valiant efforts. Those who didn’t die immediately were subjected to radiation exposure — which ultimately took the lives of an additional 25,000 people.
Many suggest that Chernobyl wasn’t just a tragedy, but a scandal.
“The plant, like the Soviet Union itself, was shrouded in secrecy,” said Miller, “plagued by technological shortcuts, shoddy construction, and lies.”
In the immediate aftermath of Chernobyl’s reactor’s meltdown, the Soviet authorities largely kept their own citizens in the dark and did not attempt to alert neighboring countries.
On April 28, 1986, the cover-up began falling apart when Swedish air monitors detected large amounts of radiation in the atmosphere that seemed to have originated in the USSR. When pressed for an answer to the radiation, the Soviets admitted that an accident had killed two people at Chernobyl.
The full story of what happened would not come out until years later. To this day, the death toll is unknown.
Fox News’ Julia Musto contributed to this report.
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