It is hard to believe it is 20 years since the accident at Chernobyl. With the current discussion about America's dependence on foreign supplies of energy, and the highly variable proces of that energy, the debate over nuclear power is getting hot again.
Chernobyl certainly killed those firemen who responded immediately to the accident, and the long term deaths from radiation may eventually kill tens of thousands all over Europe. The radioactive cloud extended as far as Sweden (where it was first detected in the west.)
It is important to realize that the severity of the accident was due to the reactor's design, which was prone to reunaway reactions. Low water levels can result in an acceleration of the reaction. The light water reactors in the US use water not just as a coolant, but as a moderator to the reactions, so low levels of water will result in the reaction decelerating. Of course, the reactors can still have catastrophic meltdowns, and there are other risks of less severe accidents, as we all saw with Three Mile Island.
It is not the role of DBR to endorse any specific remedy to America's energy needs. Instead, tonight, raise a glass in the memory of those who died twenty years ago tonight, and to those who continue to suffer from the worst accident at a nuclear power plant in our history.