April 26, 2016 will mark the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident in Ukraine. The plant’s Reactor No 4 blew up after a cooling capability test, and the resulting nuclear fire lasted for ten days, spewing out 400 times as much radiation as the bomb dropped on Hiroshima; to date, it is the world’s worst nuclear accident. Fukushima, of course, is still playing out – but so is Chernobyl.
Today Reactor No 4 simmers under its sarcophagus, a concrete cover hastily built immediately after the accident, now cracked, rusted and leaking radiation. A partial collapse of the sarcophagus in 2013 sent reverberations of fear around the globe. A more significant collapse could jettison radioactive dust into the atmosphere, where it could spread for hundreds or thousands of miles.