On April 26, 1986, an explosion at Ukraine’s Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant sent a plume of radioactive fallout into the atmosphere and across western USSR. The disaster killed 31 people onsite and thousands more suffered from the effects of radiation. Today, Ukraine will remember the victims at commemoration ceremonies throughout the country.
"Ukraine today honors the heroes, who at various times, selflessly saved our land and prevented the spread of the deadly danger," President Viktor Yanukovych said in a speech.
The president also vowed to assist the civilian men, women, and children hurt by the disaster.
Chernobyl remains the worst nuclear power accident of all time, with some estimates placing the death toll in the hundreds of thousands. The long-term effects of radiation are still uncertain.
Though the disaster struck nearly three decades ago, the area around Chernobyl is still iffy. A portion of the roof covering the damaged reactor collapsed last February and has yet to be repaired. The reactor is currently covered by a cracked concrete casing that is vulnerable to rain and snow. However, officials are building a new, safer confinement which is slated for completion in 2015. According to the Kyiv Post, officials hope to patch up the damaged roof next winter.
Despite the danger, hundreds of journalists and tourists visit the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone each year.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/VOA News, D. Markosian