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Chernobyl Accident – One of the Most Tragic Engineering Disasters

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Engineering is arguably one of the most important professions in the world. Engineers create the bridges society uses everyday to get from place to place, engineers create the cars society uses to cross those bridges and engineers are even the reason why society can power their cars. These are only a few of the thing’s engineers create, the list goes on and on. However, all these elements have one thing in common which is the involvement of heavy parts, fast speeds and dangerous chemicals. Engineers have a duty to society to create these dangerous goods, in a way that society can safely use them. Although society uses bridges, cars and chemicals everyday with no issues, engineers are only human and sometimes tragedies arise. However, one of the most tragic engineering disasters was at a nuclear plant in 1986 in Chernobyl, Ukraine.

Many of the object’s engineers create pose no threat to society, and many humans will and have gone their full lifetime with only encountering the luxuries the engineering profession creates for them. Unfortunately, however there are people that have been killed and severely injured changing their lives forever, caused from engineering disasters. The common element all the engineering disasters have in common is, somewhere along the building process someone did not follow the proper engineering profession ethics. The main rule in engineering ethics is public safety before anything however, unfortunately history recalls that many of these disasters are caused from engineering not putting public safety first and being more focused on making deadlines, so they don’t get fined or lose money from their production process taking longer. A common cause of a project taking longer is when the proper procedure and parts take longer to put together or order. This causes some engineers to buckle under the pressure, by using below standard materials to meet deadlines and/or be persuaded by superiors that an existing project is structurally sound implying time and money should not be spent on reconstruction.

A few disasters seen recently are directly caused from one of the issues stated for example the Quebec Bridge, Tacoma Bridge and the Chernobyl Disaster. Arguably one of the most horrific and tragic disasters in the history of engineering happened in the nuclear energy field. On April 26th, 1986. Nuclear energy is one of the most important resources society has, one day when fossil fuel supplies are run dry, Nuclear power will one of the few answers society will have. Nuclear energy is the process that bring subatomic particles together fighting magnetic forces inside a reactor and the outcome of this process creates one of the most powerful sources of energy engineers have ever seen. On the contrary to Nuclear energy being so powerful, the process in which it is creates, stored and disposed of is extremely dangerous and poses a large risk to society around the globe.

Chernobyl is a Ukrainian town located just outside populated town of Pripyat, which was home to about 50, 000 people in the year 1986. However, the beautiful town of Pripyat fell to be a victim because of an engineering disaster. It all started during the night shift on the 25th-26th of April 1986. When two senior Nuclear engineers and one Cheif engineer by the name of Anatoly Dyatlov were beginning a test on the Nuclear plant’s reactor 4. The test being performed to observe what would happen if there was a power outage or power shortage going to the regulator, the reason for this is because during that time in history the Russian government had fears of attacks from one of their many enemies. The government felt that their Nuclear plant would be a large target, due to the Russians being the most advanced in the world at that time in the Nuclear energy field. The test was first performed a year before in 1985, however the test failed due to faulty voltage measure devices. Engineers designed voltage meters that were ready to be put to the test. However, on the night of April 26th the shift did not start off as it should have. To begin the Deputy Chief Engineer Dyatolov was known to be a very hard man and uneasy to communicate with, and at the same time the control room which was the driver’s seat of the whole plant was getting negative readings from reactor number four. The reading was indicating that voltage was extremely low, however Dyatolov did not see an issue and wanted to get the task done, so he ordered the engineers to proceed. The younger engineers in the control room, pleaded with Dyatolov to stop the test and begin trouble shooting. The deputy did not listen and carried on, not long after the system encountered zero voltage. This caused a major concern, because the lower the voltage the more unstable the system becomes, due to the reason the plant works by the splitting of uranium atoms which creates heat turning water into steam turning a turbine. The system also contained boron rods that contributed to the reaction, by raising with the heat increase and remaining neutral when the reaction was occurring at a stable rate.

The major technical issue observed that night on the 26th of April was that when the system reached zero on the voltage scale, and when that happened the boron rods were stuck. Causing the engineers to remove them resulting in no control of the system. However, The deputy chief engineer did not believe that there was something mechanically wrong with the system and once again ordered the operation forward with no thought of diagnosis on the problem.

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