Tomorrow is the 20th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster.

Chernobyl is one of those events in history that ought to give us significant pause. A design flaw in reactor #4 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station in what was then the USSR caused the reactor to explode. The explosion blew the lid off of the top of the reactor’s core and sent thousands of pounds of highly radioactive material flying into the air. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 350,000 people all over Russia, Belarus and Ukraine were exposed to nuclear contamination. Hundreds of towns and villages had to be evacuated and literally buried. And had it not been for dedication, bravery and self-sacrifice on the part of thousands of Soviet soldiers and emergency personnel it could have been much worse. Had the reactor core material melted down into the ground water it would have caused a chain reaction that would have resulted in a fission reaction of between 3 and 5 megatons that would have resulted in most of northern Europe being uninhabitable for hundreds of years to come.

The problem is that because of the Cold War and continuing abject stupidity on the part of politicians on this side of the formerly iron curtain most people in the US think the Chernobyl accident happened because reactors in the USSR were run by incompetent and lazy people, built with substandard materials and maintained by lazy socialist workers. People simply do not realize that generating energy from controlled fission reactions is very, very dangerous stuff. Accidents at nuclear power plants are the norm, not the exception, and a design flaw, like the one that caused the accident at Chernobyl, is a possibility in any major engineering project and very likely would not be detected until, well, the roof blows off the thing.

I mention this because Dubya and his underling, Dick, have been throwing around the possibility of reviving the US nuclear power industry. Bad idea. Very bad idea.

Given the opportunity I’d ask Dubya if he’d be willing to send Barbara and Jenna in to clean up the mess should one of the new nuclear plants he’s proposed go FOOM.

Read over this article in the Guardian to get an idea of the human cost of the Chernobyl disaster. And if you’re interested in knowing more about what happened and the ongoing problems associated with the Chernobyl explosion have a look here.

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