The Disaster

The Chernobyl nuclear disaster began early in the early hours of Saturday 26 April 1986 within the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. An explosion and fire released large quantities of radioactive contamination into the atmosphere, which spread over much of Western USSR and Europe. It is considered the worst nuclear power plant accident in history, and is one of only two classified as a level 7 event on the International Nuclear Event Scale (the other being the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011).

“The odds of a meltdown are one in 10,000 years. The plants have safe and reliable controls that are protected from any breakdown with three safety systems.”

Vitaly Sklyarov, Minister of Power for the Ukrainian SSR., February 1986


Reactor 4 following the explosion

Aerial view showing the damage to Reactor 4. Unfinished units 5 & 6 and cooling towers in the background

  • What is Chernobyl?
    What was the disaster that happened there? Find out more about the city, the 1986 nuclear disaster, the abandoned city of Pripyat and the Exclusion Zone that now surrounds it.

  • What caused the disaster?
    Details of the test that resulted in the worst nuclear power plant accident in history.

  • A timeline of events
    A chronology of events surrounding the disaster.

  • The liquidators
    The story of the heroic liquidators tasked with dealing with the radioactive aftermath of the disaster.

  • Sarcophagus
    Construction of the sarcophagus that encases Unit 4 of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant.

  • New Safe Confinement
    How the New Safe Confinement arch will ensure Chernobyl is made safe. The story behind the worlds largest mobile metal structure.

  • Radiation levels
    Radiation levels in the Chernobyl exclusion zone now and then and the effect of the nuclear disaster on visitors today.

  • News
    Chernobyl related news stories from around the globe. News archive