On the night of April 25,1986, what was later described by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D,Ver.), as "by far the worst nuclear reactor accident known to mankind... beyond even the worst nightmares of nuclear scientists," occurred in the Soviet Union.
At first, the Soviets said nothing about it.
Only after Moscow officials were pressured by Sweden for an explanation of the sudden increase in radioactivity that Sweden detected, did the Soviet Council of Ministers issue the following statement through the Soviet News Agency Tass: "An accident has occurred at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant as one of the reactors was damaged." Measures are being taken to eliminate the consequences of the accident. Aid is being given to those affected. A government commission has been set up." The Soviets had withheld all information about the accident for over 36 hours and still did not reveal the scope of the disaster when they did finally acknowledge what had happened.
We now believe that "at least 27 cities and villages near the Chernobyl nuclear plant are too contaminated by radioactivity to be resettled in the foreseeable future; and that "the radiation released stretched world wide (1). We also know that the explosion and fire tore apart one of the reactors and that "31 people died" (2). However this figure conflicts with the April 29,1986 United Press International "unconfirmed" report that over 2000 people were killed by the Chernobyl nuclear reactor explosion (3).
Looking back, we can see that as the story unfolded, international outrage grew over Soviet limitations on news of the disaster, and, despite the lack of hard news attributable to reliable sources in the Soviet Union, newspapers here in the United States picked up the story and reported on it from almost every conceivable angle.
This effort attempts to examine the way...