Chernobyl Shuts Down for Good

ByABC News
December 15, 2000, 3:19 AM

K I E V, Ukraine, Dec. 15 -- Operators shut down the Chernobyl nuclear power plant with the flip of a switch today, closing the facility for good 14 years after it spawned the worlds worst nuclearaccident.

The simple procedure ended the long, troubled run of a facility that became a synonym for nuclear fears and the dangers of atomic power.

Ukraine President Leonid Kuchma gave the shutdown order from Kiev over a video linkup with the plant, located some 85 miles away. To fulfill the state decision and Ukraines international obligations, I hereby order to start work for the premature stoppage of the operation of reactor No. 3 at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, Kuchma said.

At 1:16 p.m. today, Chernobyl shift chief Oleksandr Yelchishchev turned the black AZ (short for rapid emergency defense) switch, activating the automatic safety system of the plants only working reactor and sending containment rods sliding into the reactor core.

Within seconds, a dial showed the reactors output dropping to zero. The procedure went flawlessly, the plant reported.

The shutdown, which followed years of intense internationalpressure, should erase the danger of future accidents at the plant.

Yet Ukraine will suffer the effects of the 1986 Chernobyl accident for years to come: Millions of its citizens are affected by radiation-related ailments.

The leaders of this former Soviet republic said they wereundertaking a historic mission in closing down the last functioning reactor at Chernobyl.

The world will become a safer place. People will sleep inpeace, Kuchma said Thursday during a ceremony to commemorate the shutdown.

A Disastrous Cover-up

The plants last reactor, the one shut down today, was reactor No. 3. It is located in the same building as reactor No. 4, which exploded and caught fire on April 26, 1986, contaminating vast areas of Ukraine, Russia and Belarus and spewing a radioactive cloud over Europe.