Apr 26 2011

On This Day In History April 26

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

April 26 is the 116th day of the year (117th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 249 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1986, the world’s worst nuclear power plant accident occurs at the Chernobyl nuclear power station in the Soviet Union. Thirty-two people died and dozens more suffered radiation burns in the opening days of the crisis, but only after Swedish authorities reported the fallout did Soviet authorities reluctantly admit that an accident had occurred.

The Chernobyl disaster was a nuclear accident that occurred on 26 April 1986 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in the Ukrainian SSR (now Ukraine). An explosion and fire released large quantities of radioactive contamination into the atmosphere, which spread over much of Western Russia and Europe. It is considered the worst nuclear power plant accident in history, and is one of only two classified as a level 7 event on the International Nuclear Event Scale (the other being the Fukushima I nuclear incident, which is considered far less serious and has caused no direct deaths). The battle to contain the contamination and avert a greater catastrophe ultimately involved over 500,000 workers and cost an estimated 18 billion rubles, crippling the Soviet economy.

The disaster began during a systems test on 26 April 1986 at reactor number four of the Chernobyl plant, which is near the town of Pripyat. There was a sudden power output surge, and when an emergency shutdown was attempted, a more extreme spike in power output occurred, which led to a reactor vessel rupture and a series of explosions. These events exposed the graphite moderator of the reactor to air, causing it to ignite. The resulting fire sent a plume of highly radioactive smoke fallout into the atmosphere and over an extensive geographical area, including Pripyat. The plume drifted over large parts of the western Soviet Union and Europe. From 1986 to 2000, 350,400 people were evacuated and resettled from the most severely contaminated areas of Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine. According to official post-Soviet data, about 60% of the fallout landed in Belarus.

The accident raised concerns about the safety of the Soviet nuclear power industry, as well as nuclear power in general, slowing its expansion for a number of years and forcing the Soviet government to become less secretive about its procedures.

(Click on image to enlarge) Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus have been burdened with the continuing and substantial decontamination and health care costs of the Chernobyl accident. Thirty one deaths are directly attributed to the accident, all among the reactor staff and emergency workers. A UNSCEAR report places the total confirmed deaths from radiation at 64 as of 2008. Estimates of the number of deaths potentially resulting from the accident vary enormously: the World Health Organization (WHO) suggest it could reach 4,000; a Greenpeace report puts this figure at 200,000 or more; a Russian publication, Chernobyl, concludes that 985,000 excess deaths occurred between 1986 and 2004 as a result of radioactive contamination.


After the explosion at reactor four, the remaining three reactors at the power plant continued to operate. In 1991, reactor two suffered a major fire, and was subsequently decommissioned. In November 1996, reactor one was shut down, followed by reactor three on December 15, 2000, making good on a promise by Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma that the entire plant would be closed.

Even after the last reactor shutdown, people continue to work at the Chernobyl plant until reactor units 1, 2, and 3 are totally decommissioned, which is expected to take years. The first stage of decommissioning is the removal of the highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel, which is placed in deep water cooling ponds. However, storage facilities for this are not suitable for long term containment, and those on site do not have the capacity for all the spent fuel from units 1, 2 and 3. A second facility is planned for construction that will use dry storage technology suitable for long term storage and have the required capacity.

Removal of uncontaminated equipment has begun at unit 1 and this work could be complete by 2020-2022.

The remains of reactor unit 4 will remain radioactive for some time. The isotope responsible for the majority of the external gamma radiation dose at the site is Caesium-137 which has a half-life of about 30 years. It is likely that with no further decontamination work the gamma ray dosage at the site will return to background levels in about three hundred years. However, as most of the alpha emitters are longer lived, the soil and many surfaces in and around the plant are likely to be contaminated with transuranic metals such as plutonium and americium, which have much longer half-lives. It is planned that the reactor buildings will be disassembled as soon as it is radiologically safe to do so.

 1336 – Francesco Petrarca (Petrarch) ascends Mont Ventoux

1478 – The Pazzi attack Lorenzo de’ Medici and kill his brother Giuliano during High Mass in the Duomo of Florence.

 1607 – English colonists make landfall at Cape Henry, Virginia.

1802 – Napoleon Bonaparte signs a general amnesty to allow all but about one thousand of the most notorious émigrés of the French Revolution to return to France, as part of a reconciliary gesture with the factions of the Ancien Regime and to eventually consolidate his own rule.

 1805 – First Barbary War: United States Marines captured Derne, Tripoli under the command of First Lieutenant Presley O’Bannon.

1865 – American Civil War: Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston surrenders his army to General William Tecumseh Sherman at the Bennett Place near Durham, North Carolina.

1865 – Union cavalry troopers corner and shoot dead John Wilkes Booth, assassin of President Lincoln, in Virginia.

1925 – Paul von Hindenburg defeats Wilhelm Marx in the second round of the German presidential election to become the first directly elected head of state of the Weimar Republic.

1928 – Los Angeles City Hall dedicated.

1933 – The Gestapo, the official secret police force of Nazi Germany, is established.

1937 – Spanish Civil War: Guernica (or Gernika in Basque, Spain is bombed by German Luftwaffe.

1942 – The Benxihu Colliery accident occurs in Manchukuo : 1549 Chinese miners are dead.

1944 – Georgios Papandreou becomes head of the Greek government-in-exile based in Egypt.

1945 – World War II: Battle of Bautzen – last successful German tank-offensive of the war and last noteworthy victory of the Wehrmacht.

1954 – The Geneva Conference, an effort to restore peace in Indochina and Korea, begins.

1956 – First container ship left Port Newark, New Jersey for Houston, Texas.

1958 – Final run of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad’s Royal Blue from Washington, D.C., to New York City after 68 years, the first U.S. passenger train to use electric locomotives.

1960 – Forced out by the April Revolution, President of South Korea Syngman Rhee resigns after twelve years of dictatorial rule.

1962 – NASA’s Ranger 4 spacecraft crashes into the Moon.

1963 – In Libya, amendments to the constitution transform Libya (United Kingdom of Libya) into one national unity (Kingdom of Libya) and allows for female participation in elections.

1964 – Tanganyika and Zanzibar merge to form Tanzania.

1965 – A Rolling Stones concert in London, Ontario is shut down by police after 15 minutes due to rioting.

1966 – An earthquake of magnitude 7.5 destroys Tashkent.

1966 – A new government is formed in the Republic of Congo, led by Ambroise Noumazalaye.

1970 – The Convention Establishing the World Intellectual Property Organization enters into force.

1981 – Dr. Michael R. Harrison of the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center performs the world’s first human open fetal surgery.

1982 – 57 people are killed by former police officer Woo Bum-kon in a shooting spree in Gyeongsangnam-do, South Korea.

1986 – A nuclear reactor accident occurs at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in the Soviet Union (now Ukraine), creating the world’s worst nuclear disaster.

1989 – The deadliest tornado in world history strikes Central Bangladesh, killing upwards of 1,300, injuring 12,000, and leaving as many as 80,000 homeless.

1989 – An editorial in the People’s Daily denounces the recent protests in Tiananmen Square.

1991 – Seventy tornadoes break out in the central United States. Before the outbreak’s end, Andover, Kansas, would record the year’s only F5 tornado (see Andover, Kansas Tornado Outbreak).

1994 – China Airlines flight 140 crashes at Nagoya Airport in Japan, killing 264 of the 271 people on board.

2002 – Robert Steinhauser infiltrates and kills 17 at Gutenberg-Gymnasium in Erfurt, Germany before dying of a self-inflicted gunshot.

Holidays and observances

   * Christian Feast Day:


       Franca Visalta

       Lucidius of Verona

       Our Lady of Good Counsel

       Pope Anacletus and Marcellinus


       Radbertus Paschasius

       Stephen of Perm, see also Old Permic Alphabet Day


       April 26 (Eastern Orthodox liturgics)

   * Confederate Memorial Day (States of Florida and Georgia)

   * Day of Remembrance of the Chernobyl tragedy (Belarus)

   * Union Day (Tanzania)

   * Vallenato Legend Festival usually begins on this day. (Valledupar, Colombia)

   * World Intellectual Property Day (International)

1 comment

  1. TMC

    “A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out.”~~ Walter Winchell

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