THE NEW REPUBLIC ARCHIVES
This Month in History: Nuclear Reaction
On April 26, 1986, a chain reaction at a Chernobyl power plant leads to the worst nuclear-power disaster in history killing thousands, displacing hundreds of thousands, and causing millions to suffer from radiation-induced illnesses.
That looked a wee bit high to me. So I checked out what the Encyclopaedia Britannica had to say about the accident:
Initially the Chernobyl accident caused the deaths of 32 people. Dozens more contracted serious radiation sickness; some of these people later died. Between 50 and 185 million curies of radionuclides escaped into the atmosphere—several times more radioactivity than that created by the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan. This radioactivity was spread by the wind over Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine and soon reached as far west as France and Italy. Millions of acres of forest and farmland were contaminated; and although many thousands of people were evacuated, hundreds of thousands more remained in contaminated areas. In addition, in subsequent years many livestock were born deformed, and among humans several thousand radiation-induced illnesses and cancer deaths were expected in the long term.
Is it fuzzy math in the New Republic's story? I wrote to them. I'll let you know what I hear back.