20 Things About The Chernobyl Disaster We're Not Supposed To Know

HBO’s recent miniseries about the nuclear disaster in 1986 in a Soviet power plant called Chernobyl has reawakened our curiosity and interest in this devastating event. The historical drama follows the events leading up to the incident and the aftermath including the cleanup and the trials.

While the television show portrays the amount of destruction the nuclear explosion caused, there are still many secrets about this event that your average viewer will not know about. Digging deep into the mysterious event reveals several untold secrets that will surprise most beyond belief. Read on to learn the truth about what happened at Chernobyl.

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20 The Soviet Union Tried To Cover It Up

Russia Beyond

The was a lot of secrecy and lack of information surrounding Chernobyl. Immediately after the incident, the Soviet government kept important information away from inhabitants and nearby countries in an attempt to cover up the explosion.

This evidently did not go well as radiation made its way to Sweden and other countries.

19 Residents Cannot Return But Tourists Are Welcome


In the aftermath of the explosion, residents living near the plant were evacuated with the promise that they would be allowed to return home shortly. Many left behind treasured items and even family pets, however over 20 years later, they still cannot return.

Funnily enough, History states that the Ukrainian government allows tourists to visit and enjoy a guided tour.

18 It Was Actually Beneficial For Wildlife

National Geographic

It’s quite ironic, as most people would assume that a giant nuclear explosion would be detrimental to wildlife, however, History explains that it actually had the adverse effect.

With no one left to hunt animals or take up land for farming, animals herded to the exclusion zone. This area is thriving with a variety of different species.

17 Chernobyl Remained Open For 4 Years After The Explosion

Engineers Journal

The explosion at Chernobyl was a horrible incident which would cause most to assume that the Soviet government would learn to be more cautious, however, this surely was not the case.

According to History, the unstable reactors were initially shut down, however, they were reopened in the late 80s until the late 90s and early 00s.

16 The Area Will Be Clear By 2065

The Verge

After the accident, workers filled the reactor core with sand, lead, and boron to stop radioactive particles from further affecting the area.

Later, they built a huge tomb-like structure around it to solidify it, however, there is still plenty of work to be done over the next 45 years to ensure the area is safe and that the reactor core is not exposed.

15 The Cleanup Was Deadlier Than The Explosion


While many would assume the explosion of radioactive material equal to multiple nuclear bombs would do the most damage, History explains that the cleanup was actually the deadliest operation.

Many of the firefighters and workers who helped onsite suffered from radiation poisoning as a result of their heroic efforts.

14 The Plant Was Missing Some Serious Safety Measures

Vice News

The Chernobyl incident was no fluke. The nuclear plant was built without a containment building, which according to Live Science, is meant to confine any radioactive particles that may escape as a result of an explosion or accident.

This likely would’ve saved endless amounts of lives and completely limited contamination.

13 Firefighters Got The Worst Of It

Russia Beyond

Most assume that the worst part of the Chernobyl incident was the radiation, but the explosion also caused a terrible fire. Many of the firefighters who attended the scene and were trying to stop the fire sadly got poisoned by the radiation shooting out of the reactor core.

Since they were the first responders, they got exposed at the worst and most dangerous moment.

12 The USSR Ignored Chernobyl’s Construction Flaws

Annemarie's Russia Blog

Chernobyl is an increasingly controversial incident which led to much criticism from other countries, but nearly no action from the Soviets.

The nuclear plant exploded because of some serious design flaws and while all other plants in the area were constructed similarly, the Soviets chose to keep them all running.

11 It Led To Scientific Discoveries


The Chernobyl incident was the first of its kind and the study of a nuclear explosion of such a magnitude led to some interesting results.

AnsNuclearCafe states that in 1991, scientists found microorganisms thriving inside of the radioactive plant. Previously, scientists believed nothing could survive in these conditions.

10 The Workers Acted Heroically But Were Never Rewarded

BBC interviewed a Chernobyl survivor to know more about the incident. In this telling interview, Oleksiy Breus, an engineer at Chernobyl, states that the workers acted incredibly heroically and many of them volunteered to risk their lives.

Sadly, however, unlike what was depicted in the HBO miniseries, these workers were not rewarded nor given promotions for their brave actions.

9 An Estimated 40,000 People Will Have Cancer As A Result

Miami Herald

NewScientist explains how difficult it was to study the impact of Chernobyl and states that most of the facts are estimations.

While these numbers are mainly speculation by environmental physicists, it is believed that approximately 16,000 people will have thyroid cancer and 25,000 will have another form of cancer by 2065.

8 Chernobyl Is Still Deadly Today

The Bohemiam Blog

While the radiation levels have decreased immensely since 1986, there are still some parts of the exclusion zone that can cause some damage.

According to Untamed Science, there are areas of Pripyat still contain an accumulation of radioactive particles that can seriously harm a human if they remain in that space for a few hours.

7 It’s The Biggest Man-Made Disaster Ever


News channels can dramatize events at times and make them seem much worse than they are. For the case of Chernobyl however, it was actually so much worse than anyone could’ve imagined.

While the Soviets tried to minimize the backlash received for the incident, List 25 explains that it ranked a 7 on the International Nuclear Event scale, making it the biggest man-made disaster in history.

6 100x More Radiation Was Released That At Nagasaki & Hiroshima


The atomic bombs dropped during the Second World War were horrifyingly destructive, however, Chernobyl was actually much more radioactive.

Mainly due to the slow reaction of the Soviet Union to repair the plant, BBC states that 100 times more radiation was released at Chernobyl compared to these disastrous events.

5 Radiation Caused Forests To Turn Red

Toxic News

The Red Forest is a 10-square-kilometer forest near the nuclear plant which absorbed a high amount of radiation. The radiation was absorbed by the greenery and turned it a burnt reddish color.

Surprisingly, All That’s Interesting states that an abundance of animals including dogs, moose, and boars still live in this forest.

4 The First Week After The Blast Was The Worst


Live Science explains that the first blast poured plenty of radiation into the air, which was very harmful for the first week. After this incident, the radioactivity dropped significantly.

One day after the blast, the radioactive levels were one-fifteenth of what they were the previous day. One week after the incident, these levels were much lower.

3 The Reactor Is Still Radioactive


While many efforts were made to conceal the emission of radioactive particles, what’s within the containment structure is quite frightening. The Sun states that over 200 tons of radioactive materials are still in the reactor core today.

This is why the Russian government continues to invest billions to secure the containment structure.

2 Radioactive Particles Made Their Way To The USA

Live Science

While the Chernobyl incident had the largest impact within the Soviet Union territory, had the Soviet government not taken action, the incident could’ve easily had a more serious international impact.

Radioactive dust from the Chernobyl disaster reached across northern and western Europe and even as far as the eastern United States. Nuclear rain even fell in Nordic countries like Ireland!

1 We Will Never Know The Whole Story

The Telegraph

Still today, so much mystery surrounds the Chernobyl disaster. USA Today states that much information about the incident remains classified within Russia, explaining why the world does not publicly know the extent of its impact.

While the Russian government has stated that health issues related to the event are not getting worse, there is no way for us to confirm any of that.

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