Posts Tagged ‘Chernobyl

26
Apr
09

On This Day, April 26: Chernobyl

April 26, 1986

Nuclear explosion at Chernobyl

On this day in 1986, the world’s worst nuclear accident to date occurs at the Chernobyl nuclear plant near Kiev in Ukraine. The full toll from this disaster is still being tallied, but experts believe that thousands of people died and as many as 70,000 suffered severe poisoning. In addition, a large area of land may not be livable for as much as 150 years. The 18-mile radius around Chernobyl was home to almost 150,000 people who had to be permanently relocated.

The Soviet Union built the Chernobyl plant, which had four 1,000-megawatt reactors, in the town of Pripyat. At the time of the explosion, it was one of the largest and oldest nuclear power plants in the world. The explosion and subsequent meltdown of one reactor was a catastrophic event that directly affected hundreds of thousands of people. Still, the Soviet government kept its own people and the rest of the world in the dark about the accident until days later.

At first, the Soviet government only asked for advice on how to fight graphite fires and acknowledged the death of two people. It soon became apparent, however, that the Soviets were covering up a major accident and had ignored their responsibility to warn both their own people and surrounding nations. Two days after the explosion, Swedish authorities began measuring dangerously high levels of radioactivity in their atmosphere.

Years later, the full story was finally released. Workers at the plant were performing tests on the system. They shut off the emergency safety systems and the cooling system, against established regulations, in preparation for the tests. Even when warning signs of dangerous overheating began to appear, the workers failed to stop the test. Xenon gases built up and at 1:23 a.m. the first explosion rocked the reactor. A total of three explosions eventually blew the 1,000-ton steel top right off of the reactor.

A huge fireball erupted into the sky. Flames shot 1,000 feet into the air for two days, as the entire reactor began to melt down. Radioactive material was thrown into the air like fireworks. Although firefighting was futile, Pripyat’s 40,000 people were not evacuated until 36 hours after the explosion. Potentially lethal rain fell as the fires continued for eight days. Dikes were built at the Pripyat River to contain damage from contaminated water run-off and the people of Kiev were warned to stay indoors as a radioactive cloud headed their way.

On May 9, workers began encasing the reactor in concrete. Later, Hans Blix of the International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed that approximately 200 people were directly exposed and that 31 had died immediately at Chernobyl. The clean-up effort and the general radioactive exposure in the region, however, would prove to be even more deadly. Some reports estimate that as many as 4,000 clean-up workers died from radiation poisoning. Birth defects among people living in the area have increased dramatically. Thyroid cancer has increased tenfold in Ukraine since the accident.

“Nuclear explosion at Chernobyl,” The History Channel website, 2009, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=415 [accessed Apr 26, 2009]

 

On This Day

1514 – Copernicus made his first observations of Saturn.

1607 – The British established an American colony at Cape Henry, Virginia. It was the first permanent English establishment in the Western Hemisphere.

1819 – The first Odd Fellows lodge in the U.S. was established in Baltimore, MD.

1865 – Joseph E. Johnston surrendered the Army of Tennessee to Sherman during the American Civil War.

1865 – John Wilkes Booth was killed by the U.S. Federal Cavalry.

1921 – Weather broadcasts were heard for the first time on radio in St. Louis, MO.

1937 – German planes attacked Guernica, Spain, during the Spanish Civil War.

1964 – The African nations of Tanganyika and Zanzibar merged to form Tanzania.

1968 – Students seized the administration building at Ohio State University.

1982 – Argentina surrendered to Britain over Falkland Island crisis.

 

April 26, 1954

Geneva Conference begins

In an effort to resolve several problems in Asia, including the war between the French and Vietnamese nationalists in Indochina, representatives from the world’s powers meet in Geneva. The conference marked a turning point in the United States’ involvement in Vietnam.

Representatives from the United States, the Soviet Union, the People’s Republic of China, France, and Great Britain came together in April 1954 to try to resolve several problems related to Asia. One of the most troubling concerns was the long and bloody battle between Vietnamese nationalist forces, under the leadership of the communist Ho Chi Minh, and the French, who were intent on continuing colonial control over Vietnam. Since 1946 the two sides had been hammering away at each other. By 1954, however, the French were tiring of the long and inconclusive war that was draining both the national treasury and public patience. The United States had been supporting the French out of concern that a victory for Ho’s forces would be the first step in communist expansion throughout Southeast Asia. When America refused France’s requests for more direct intervention in the war, the French announced that they were including the Vietnam question in the agenda for the Geneva Conference.

Discussions on the Vietnam issue started at the conference just as France suffered its worst military defeat of the war, when Vietnamese forces captured the French base at Dien Bien Phu. In July 1954, the Geneva Agreements were signed. As part of the agreement, the French agreed to withdraw their troops from northern Vietnam. Vietnam would be temporarily divided at the 17th parallel, pending elections within two years to choose a president and reunite the country. During that two-year period, no foreign troops could enter Vietnam. Ho reluctantly signed off on the agreement though he believed that it cheated him out of the spoils of his victory. The non-communist puppet government set up by the French in southern Vietnam refused to sign, but without French support this was of little concern at the time. The United States also refused to sign, but did commit itself to abide by the agreement. Privately, U.S. officials felt that the Geneva Agreements, if allowed to be put into action, were a disaster. They were convinced that national elections in Vietnam would result in an overwhelming victory for Ho, the man who had defeated the French colonialists. The U.S. government scrambled to develop a policy that would, at the least, save southern Vietnam from the communists. Within a year, the United States had helped establish a new anti-communist government in South Vietnam and began giving it financial and military assistance, the first fateful steps toward even greater U.S. involvement in Vietnam.

“Geneva Conference begins,” The History Channel website, 2009, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=2649 [accessed Apr 26, 2009]

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01
May
08

On This Day, 5-1-08: Law Day

President Eisenhower proclaims Law Day

On this day in 1958, President Eisenhower proclaims Law Day to honor the role of law in the creation of the United States of America. Three years later, Congress followed suit by passing a joint resolution establishing May 1 as Law Day.

The idea of a Law Day had first been proposed by the American Bar Association in 1957. The desire to suppress the celebration of May 1, or May Day, as International Workers Day aided in Law Day’s creation. May Day had communist overtones in the minds of many Americans, because of its celebration of working people as a governing class in the Soviet Union and elsewhere.

“President Eisenhower proclaims Law Day.” 2008. The History Channel website. 1 May 2008, 12:00 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=609.

0408 – Theodosius II succeeded to the throne of Constantinople.

1308 – King Albert was murdered by his nephew John, because he refused his share of the Habsburg lands.

1707 – England, Wales and Scotland were united to form Great Britain.

1805 – The state of Virginia passed a law requiring all freed slaves to leave the state, or risk either imprisonment or deportation.

1863 – In Virginia, the Battle of Chancellorsville began. General Robert E. Lee’s forces began fighting with Union troops under General Joseph Hooker. Confederate General Stonewall Jackson was mortally wounded by his own soldiers in this battle. (May 1-4)

1867 – Reconstruction in the South began with black voter registration.

1877 – U.S. President Rutherford B. Hayes withdrew all Federal troops from the South, ending Reconstruction.

1884 – The construction of the firt American 10-story building began in Chicago, IL.

1898 – The U.S. Navy under Dewey defeated the Spanish fleet at Manila Bay in the Philippines.

1927 – Adolf Hitler held his first Nazi meeting in Berlin.

1931 – The Empire State Building in New York was dedicated and opened. It was 102 stories tall and was the tallest building in the world at the time.

1934 – The Philippine legislature accepted a U.S. proposal for independence.

1941 – “Citizen Kane,” directed and starring Orson Welles, premiered in New York.

1944 – The Messerschmitt Me 262, the first combat jet, made its first flight.

1945 – Martin Bormann, private secretary to Adolf Hitler, escaped from the Fuehrerbunker as the Red Army advanced on Berlin.

1945 – Admiral Karl Doenitz succeeded Hitler as leader of the Third Reich. This was one day after Hitler committed suicide.

1961 – Fidel Castro announced there would be no more elections in Cuba.

1967 – Anastasio Somoza Debayle became president of Nicaragua.

1970 – Students at Kent State University riot in downtown Kent, OH, in protest of the American invasion of Cambodia.

1986 – The Tass News Agency reported the Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident.

1992 – On the third day of the Los Angeles riots resulting from the Rodney King beating trial. King appeared in public to appeal for calm, he asked, “Can we all get along?”

2001 – In Washington, DC, Chandra Levy disappeared. She was an intern at the U.S. Bureau of Prisons. California Representative Gary Condit was named in the investigation. Her body was found on May 22, 2002 in Rock Creek Park.

 

American U-2 spy plane shot down

An American U-2 spy plane is shot down while conducting espionage over the Soviet Union. The incident derailed an important summit meeting between President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev that was scheduled for later that month.

The U-2 spy plane was the brainchild of the Central Intelligence Agency, and it was a sophisticated technological marvel. Traveling at altitudes of up to 70,000 feet, the aircraft was equipped with state-of-the-art photography equipment that could, the CIA boasted, take high-resolution pictures of headlines in Russian newspapers as it flew overhead. Flights over the Soviet Union began in mid-1956. The CIA assured President Eisenhower that the Soviets did not possess anti-aircraft weapons sophisticated enough to shoot down the high-altitude planes.

“American U-2 spy plane shot down.” 2008. The History Channel website. 1 May 2008, 12:03 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=2654.




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