Skip to content

There are Bigger Atomic Worries Than Chernobyl in Ukraine

The country’s 15 other reactors — operating with fresh fuel — pose more serious threats to nuclear safety and security.

The protective dome over the fourth reactor of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.
The protective dome over the fourth reactor of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.Photographer: Sergei Supinsky/AFP/Getty Images
Updated on

Russian forces have taken control of Ukraine’s defunct nuclear power plant in Chernobyl, prompting online speculation that the site of the 1986 meltdown could again be the source of a dangerous radioactive incident. But experts are more worried about Ukraine’s 15 operational atomic reactors.

Chernobyl remains infamous around the world because of the scale of the deadly accident in 1986 that led to many deaths, and subsequent Soviet attempts to cover up the damage and impact. Today the decommissioned plant is at the heart of a vast exclusion zone and a protective sarcophagus encloses the worst-hit of the four reactors.