On April 26, 1986, a nuclear reactor at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant exploded, starting a tremendous fire. Both the explosion and the fire resulted from structural damages caused by negligence during the construction of the plant which were known for more than a decade but never acted upon. Radioactive fallout spread over approximately 39,000 square miles, hitting Belarus, Ukraine, Russia, and various regions across Europe — only the Iberian Peninsula escaped the fallout completely. The first evidence of a major release of radioactive material came from Sweden. The Soviet Union covered up the disaster, which made it harder to contain.
Chernobyl took place as the Soviets were competing with the U.S. under President Ronald Reagan, aiming to develop their economy to outproduce America at the tail end of the Cold War.
Commentators have long called the coronavirus global pandemic “China’s Chernobyl.” Yet recent reports — if they prove true — make the comparison even more apt.