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Frequently Asked Chernobyl Questions

On April 26, 1986, the Number Four RBMK reactor at the nuclear power plant at Chernobyl, Ukraine, went out of control during a test at low-power, leading to an explosion and fire that demolished the reactor building and released large amounts of radiation into the atmosphere. Safety measures were ignored, the uranium fuel in the reactor overheated and melted through the protective barriers. RBMK reactors do not have what is known as a containment structure, a concrete and steel dome over the reactor itself designed to keep radiation inside the plant in the event of such an accident. Consequently, radioactive elements including plutonium, iodine, strontium and caesium were scattered over a wide area. In addition, the graphite blocks used as a moderating material in the RBMK caught fire at high temperature as air entered the reactor core, which contributed to emission of radioactive materials into the environment.


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