The Chernobyl Trial


  • 19/10/2015
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After the nuclear disaster of Chernobyl, Ukraine, which occurred on the morning of April 26, 1986, questions were raised as to what the cause of the disaster was. Naturally, the public and the authorities also wanted to know who was responsible for the famous explosion which took the lives of over 4,000 people – a truly incredible and unfortunate number. Of course, at the time of the incident the cause was unknown. Indeed, it could have been a technical error, but of course if this was not the case and it was actually human error, somebody would need to be punished, and the real cause of the incident could be found.

After the devastation, it was found that the cause of the accident was indeed contributed to by human error. The plant operators took action in violation of the plant’s technical specifications and regulations.  An experiment was put in place to test the backup power in the event of a power failure. The plant workers ran the plant at very low power (under 700MW), without adequate safety precautions. No anticipation on the effect of the safety of the reactor was present, so the test program was not formally coordinated with either the chief designer of the reactor or the scientific manager. Instead, the director of the plant approved the test, which still was not consistent with established procedures. 

The reactors were specified as ‘BolshoMoshchnosty Kanalny’, meaning ‘High power channel reactors’. These were different from standard commercial designs, and were highly unstable at low power. The core eventually exploded during emergency shutdown of the reactor; therefore it is evident these human-aided factors led to the extremely powerful blast that led to the reactor’s subsequent destruction. 

Chernobyl town was the chosen place of trial for workers accused of the Chernobyl accident as according to Soviet law, the trial must be held close to the crime. Chernobyl is just 12km from the nuclear power plant, therefore its citizens were evacuated at the beginning of May 1986. Understandably, entrance to this zone was possible only through special authorization.

Chernobyl was repeatedly decontaminated after the disaster, and later refurbished with new paint laid on renovated paving.  By the end of July 1987 the centre was ready to hold the ‘Chernobyl Trial’.