Chernobyl, the world's worst nuclear accident happened on April 26, 1986. Seven years after the event, Herald reporter Wanda Briggs traveled to Ukraine and Russia with a business delegation from the Tri-Cities. It is worthy to note the impact that accident had on the Tri-Cities.
It's now 25 years since the accident, and we have another nuclear tragedy unfolding in Japan. It's time to take a look back at the results of the first accident.
By Wanda Briggs
Published on March 6, 1994
On April 26, 1986, the fate of the Tri-Cities became entwined with that of Ukraine. On that day, a fire in the Chernobyl No. 4 reactor spewed radiation out in the world's worst nuclear disaster. The accident killed about 10,000 people, contaminated 10 million more and, half a world away, threw the economy of the Tri-Cities into a temporary tailspin.
Concerns over similarities between the Chernobyl reactor and Hanford's N Reactor led to the end of Hanford's weapons production mission. Thousands of Tri-City jobs were lost and the community desperately looked for a way to resuscitate the economy.
Environmental cleanup offered salvation. Largely because the Chernobyl accident forced Hanford to find a new mission, the federal site today leads the country in developing technologies to clean up the Cold War's legacy of hazardous and radioactive wastes - and the Tri-Cities is booming.
But Chernobyl's scars still disfigure Ukraine.
The country's struggle for independence from Russia has forced it to the brink of bankruptcy. Its citizens say Chernobyl's blight has left their country a nuclear outcast.
Herald reporter Wanda Briggs recently covered a group promoting a Tri-City-based nuclear-disarmament plan as it visited Ukraine. Her visit produced images of Chernobyl's lasting effect on the country.
* Volodymer Shovkoshytny, who worked as an engineer at the Chernobyl station at the time of the disaster. Today he is president of a 1.5-million-member organization that assists Chernobyl survivors and is a member of Ukraine's parliament.
* Svitlana Plachkova, a nuclear engineer who today is a consultant to Ukraine's Permanent Commission on Chernobyl. Plachkova came to the Tri-Cities in December believing "little people" could not make a difference. She now believes they can. She is a candidate for parliament in the March 27 election.
* Dr. Alexander Kirichenko treats people with cancers -many he blames on Chernobyl contamination. He buys medicine on the black market and worries about the future of his people and his country.
* Nuclear engineer Lysa Aulina, who felt personally responsible for the Chernobyl blast. "We were told it was our fault and we believed," said the woman whose guilt forced her to return to Chernobyl to do radioactive cleanup work.
* Larisa Wesslskay was among 100,000 people who fled their homes near the damaged plant. Today she works for Chernobyl Union International - for $8 a month - helping children of Chernobyl get medical care.
* And Pripyat, once a thriving city of 55,000, remains the world's only nuclear ghost town, a reminder of what went wrong.