1986
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Chernobyl: reactor unit 4  after meltdown

Chernobyl: reactor unit 4 after meltdown
Source: dpa

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Themen

Environment

Worst case nuclear scenario

Date: 26 April 1986, time: 1:23 and 44 seconds. An explosion, a terrible inferno. A creeping death will hang over bulletChernobyl for hundreds of years. The spreading radioactivity suddenly makes Germany, 3,000 kilometres distant, seem like a stone's throw away.

A nuclear cloud floats across Europe. "A hard rain's gonna fall" on North Rhine-Westphalia and other regions. Geiger counters in the supermarket - nervous consumers testing the safety of fresh food. People don't know what they should eat or whether it's safe to go outside.

The information from the government is contradictory: contamination levels are not dangerous, say the politicians; yet parents are told to keep their children out of sandpits and give them a thorough scrub after playing outside.

Don't drink fresh milk from cows grazing on spring pastures; don't eat lettuce and spinach, with their large leaves. German farmers can't sell their produce. Mushrooms, in particular, are to be left uneaten for many years to come.

It takes months before the general public again trusts government advice. But something comes out of it: in Germany, the disaster leads to the creation of a government department with a broad environmental portfolio: the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety. After Chernobyl there's little public enthusiasm for nuclear power.

Dirk Bitzer

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