It’s hard for those of us in the modern era to grasp the true horror of the Chernobyl disaster. Even a deep dive into the Chernobyl meltdown timeline can only reveal so much about the very real, visceral consequences of the event. Putting the sequence of events that led to Chernobyl into context takes an event that American history books casually summarize as a horrible accident and paints the incident for what it really was: a series of compounding mistakes that produced one of the greatest environmental tragedies in human history.
The Chernobyl disaster occurred in the early morning hours of April 26, 1986, in a nuclear power plant next to the Ukrainian city of Pripyat. Multiple detonations spewed out vast quantities of toxic nuclear material and produced ongoing leaks that caused radiation levels to spike around the globe. At least 30 people lost their lives as a direct result of Chernobyl - but the true toll of the event, including increased rates of cancer and other illnesses along with environmental concerns, is impossible to measure. What is possible to track, however, are the series of unfortunate decisions that led to the tragedy in the first place.