Stephen Phillips at The LA Times:
The explosion on April 26, 1986, at the V.I. Lenin, or Chernobyl, Atomic Energy Station in what was then the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic is thought to have “vaporized” one worker on the spot. Another 30, drenched in fatal doses of radiation, died gruesome, lingering deaths. As of 2005, as many as 5,000 additional cancer deaths were projected locally — among 25,000 extra cancer cases Europe-wide. Contamination rendered 1,838-plus square miles “uninhabitable.” And a spectral column of radioactive gases escaped into the atmosphere, setting people on edge from Stockholm to San Francisco. It was the worst nuclear accident in history and could have been far worse.
It also helped precipitate the demise of the Soviet Union. And this — the dissolution of the geopolitical entity in which it occurred — has contributed to its effacement: buried under the accretions of history like the radioactive debris smothered by “absorbents” during its cleanup. Thirty-three years later, what happened exactly at Chernobyl?