The Chernobyl catastrophe is considered the worst nuclear accident in history.
At 1:23 am on 26 April 1986, a safety test at the Chernobyl Power Plant in Ukraine set off two explosions to the equivalent of 400 nuclear bombs.
Two workers were instantly killed and 29 more passed away in the following months.
The release of HBO’s five-part series, Chernobyl, has put the nuclear disaster back in the public eye as it recounts the aftermath of the tragedy in great detail.
You can watch the official trailer for Chernobyl, right here. Post continues after video.
Researchers remain divided on how fatal the Chernobyl disaster ultimately was. The World Health Organisation estimates that 30,000 deaths can be attributed to Chernobyl. However, the Chernobyl Union of Ukraine, a non-government organisation, estimates the death toll to be 734,000, with most due to related cancers.
But this toll could have been exponentially higher, had it not been for three brave men who volunteered for a job that many considered certain death. The mission later earned them the nickname ‘the suicide squad’.
The second explosion.
There was risk of a second explosion, that would have been even more devastating than the first.
Five days after Soviet authorities believed the disaster was contained, the alarming discovery was made in early May that Unit 4’s core reactor was continuing to melt down.
Under the reactor was a gigantic pool of water, serving as a coolant for the power plant. Dividing the pool and the melting reactor was a thick slab of concrete. But as the core continued to melt, the concrete was burning, seeing the molten of radioactive metal proceed towards the water.
If the two touched, it would have left unimaginable damage.
According to journalist Stephen McGinty for The Scotsman: “This would trigger a nuclear explosion that, so Soviet physicists calculated, would vaporise the fuel in the three other reactors, level 200 square kilometres, destroy Kiev, contaminate the water supply used by 30 million people and render northern Ukraine uninhabitable for more than a century.”
Firefighters launched a mission that pumped some of the water out, but gallons of radioactive water remained.
Three men, plant-workers who were on site, volunteered to dive into the radio-contaminated water to find the valves that would drain the rest of the pool and prevent a second explosion. It was considered a suicide mission. Officials reportedly even promised that if they didn’t survive, their families would be provided for.