Chernobyl explained: Did Chernobyl radiation reach the USA?

Chernobyl is the epic miniseries that everybody is talking about. The series was recently voted the highest rated of all time on IMDb, and if you haven’t seen it yet, you might want to see what all the hype is about. The Chernobyl explosion occurred at approximately 1:23 am [Moscow Time] on April 26, 1986, and the effects could have had even larger consequences for the rest of the world.

Did Chernobyl radiation reach the USA?

According to the UN Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR), Chernobyl radiation may have reached as far 0 the USA.

In a 2011 report, UNSWEAR concluded that Chernobyl: “Resulted in radioactive material becoming widely dispersed and deposited … throughout the northern hemisphere.”

The United States is situated within the Northern Hemisphere so it is highly possible.

In March 2005, the Oxford Journals also reported: “The releases of radioactive materials were such that contamination of the ground was found to some extent in every country in the Northern Hemisphere.”

In the immediate aftermath of Chernobyl, it was reported widely by the press to speak of the “globe impact” of Chernobyl.

On May 1986, The Associated Press wrote: “An invisible cloud of radioactivity… has worked its way gradually around the world.”

The Duluth Herald also wrote in May 1986, “Airborne radioactivity from the Chernobyl nuclear accident is now so widespread that it is likely to fall to the ground wherever it rains in the United States.”

On May 1986, the Duluth Herald also said that levels of radioactive iodine could be found in milk.

Donald Hughes in his 2002 book, An Environmental History of the World, noted levels of radiation in rainwater immediately after Chernobyl.

He wrote: “For example, an increase of [radiation in rainwater] recorded on May 12 in Washington State was more than 140 times the background level measured immediately before the Chernobyl cloud reached the USA.”


Chernobyl is streaming on NOW TV and HBO

Chernobyl is streaming on NOW TV and HBO (Image: HBO)

Overall, the World Nuclear Association estimates at least five per cent of the reactor’s nuclear material leaked into the atmosphere.

Chernobyl radiation travelled very far, across the Soviet Union and into parts of Europe thanks to strong winds and rain.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 7,722 square miles (20,000 square kilometres) of Europe was contaminated by radiation.

The most affected parts were Ukraine, Belarus and West Russia.

According to the 2009 United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR), the Chernobyl accident by 2005 had released a radiation dose of 150,000 man-Sv to the population of Ukraine, Belarus and Russia.

A 30km long exclusion zone was set up around Chernobyl and over 300,000 people were evacuated.


Jared Harris plays Valery Legasov in Chernobyl

Jared Harris plays Valery Legasov in Chernobyl (Image: SKY)

Stellan Skarsgård, who plays Boris Scherbina in the series, told press in London including that he remembers Chernobyl affecting his home country of Sweden.

In fact, it was a nuclear power plant in Sweden that first detected radioactive fallout, tracing it back to Chernobyl.

Sweden’s discovery left the Soviet government to come clean to the Western World and to the Soviet people about what really happened at the Chernobyl Power Plant.

Skarsgard said: “I knew a lot about it, Sweden was the first country to recognise that something had happened there.

“It was a Swedish nuclear plant that found radiation and traced back to the fuel at Chernobyl and the way it came in over Sweden, we couldn’t eat reindeer for a couple of years and we had to eat mushrooms and stuff.”

Radiation even reached as far as the West of Scotland in 1986 as a result of heavy rain.


Chernobyl radiation spread across the Northern Hemisphere

Chernobyl radiation spread across the Northern Hemisphere (Image: HBO)

At the time, milk was found to have radiation levels of 225 becquerels per litre, 200 times the normal amount.

Even sheep were found to have high levels of radiation and there was a temporary ban on the sale of livestock.

Alex Ferns, who plays miner Andrei Gluckhov in the series told the Sunday Mail that he believed his uncle died as a result of Chernobyl radiation.

He said: “My uncle Robert used to work for the Scottish Water Board. When Chernobyl happened, the poisoned rain came over the west and centre of Scotland.

“My uncle and his colleagues were out working in the rain in the Killearn area in Scotland and asked to come in but were told by their gaffer to stay outside and to carry on working. They carried on.”

He added: “Not one of them reached the age of 50, including Robert. They all died of cancer. I think that’s a f***ing tragedy. That’s a reflection of the bigger picture of Chernobyl that we see in the show.

“Whether the Chernobyl rain is what gave him the cancer, they don’t know 100 per cent but the family are convinced it had something to do with it.

“Apart from telling me himself numerous times that he felt Chernobyl had made him sick, Robert’s closest friend said he believed it too.“

Chernobyl is streaming on NOW TV