On April 26, 1986, the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station in the Soviet Union (present-day Ukraine) exploded. This incident is considered the worst nuclear accident in history. Chernobyl had four nuclear reactors, each producing 1,000 megawatts of electric power. On the day of the accident, workers in Reactor 4 attempted a test of an emergency cooling procedure. The reactor experienced a huge power surge. When workers tried to shut down the reactor, it resulted in an even larger power surge. Soon after, several large explosions turned into a fireball that eventually blew off the lid of the reactor. This released enormous amounts of radioactive material into the atmosphere—several times more than that of the atomic bombs dropped on Japan during World War II.
 
The citizens of the nearby town of Prypyat were evacuated the day after the accident, but it was too late for the radioactive toxins to be captured. The radioactive material was spread by the wind and stretched as far as France and Italy. In addition to causing the deaths of 32 people, the Chernobyl accident had many serious and life-threatening effects. Civilians suffered from radiation sickness, and in the years following the accident, thousands of radiation-induced illnesses were identified; many people died of cancer. Millions of hectacres of forest and farmland were contaminated, causing deformities and short-term life spans in farm animals. Although several of the units at Chernobyl remained active until 2000, the nuclear power plant is now officially shut down. 
Noun

layers of gases surrounding a planet or other celestial body.

cancer
Noun

growth of abnormal cells in the body.

civilian
Noun

person who is not in the military.

contaminate
Verb

to poison or make hazardous.

enormous
Adjective

very large.

evacuate
Verb

to leave or remove from a dangerous place.

incident
Noun

event or happening.

induce
Verb

to cause or lead to.

procedure
Noun

method or steps followed to achieve a goal.

radioactive
Adjective

having unstable atomic nuclei and emitting subatomic particles and radiation.

Soviet Union
Noun

(1922-1991) large northern Eurasian nation that had a communist government. Also called the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, or the USSR.

toxin
Noun

poisonous substance, usually one produced by a living organism.

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