The disaster is thought to have caused thousands of cancer cases. It was the only event classed as a “major accident” by the International Atomic Energy Agency until the 2011 meltdowns in Fukushima, Japan. The data demonstrates its impact: in the 32 years before Chernobyl, 409 reactors were opened, but only 194 have been connected in the three decades since.
There were other factors in play, too. Yes, some of the change was directly down to the disaster in Ukraine. Italy, for example, voted in a referendum soon afterwards to stop producing nuclear energy.
Chernobyl, Ukraine: the nuclear option holiday
However, consultant nuclear engineer John Large says that regulations and transparency demands introduced in the wake of a 1979 meltdown at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania actually had a bigger impact. “Fukushima will have the same effect,” he says.
The disaster in Japan prompted the German government to phase out its plants, with the last one closing in 2022. “Nuclear energy is failing because it is simply too expensive,” says Dr Paul Dorfman, senior research fellow at the Energy Institute, University College London. “If there’s another nuclear accident in the next five or 10 years, you can say goodbye to the industry.”