Radioactivity Case Study

Contributor: Hannah Brooks. Lesson ID: 12497

We may not be able to control the power of the weather, but we can certainly tame a little tiny atom, can't we? Ask the people of Pripyat, Ukraine, what happens when things get horribly out of hand!



learning style
personality style
Grade Level
High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!


Look closely at the town in the picture below. What do you notice is missing? Why do you think this town is abandoned?

abandoned town

The town in the image is Pripyat.

It is a famous abandoned place located in the Ukraine.

  • Do you have any guesses as to why it is abandoned?

Pripyat was a town built around a nuclear power plant called Chernobyl. People lived in the homes and apartments surrounding the plant, because they worked in different parts of the power plant. There were many families in the area, which is why you may see images of a school or playground in Pripyat.

Before continuing, if you skipped or need to review the eight previous Radioactivity Related Lessons, find them in the right-hand sidebar.

On the morning of April 26, 1986, the plant started another routine day. It would change the history of the area and nuclear power forever.

Learn about the Chernobyl disaster by watching the videos below. As you watch each video, keep a journal entry that answers these questions:

  1. What happened?
  2. Why did it happen?
  3. How could it be prevented?
  4. How did it impact the people living in the area?

Chernobyl had several reactors running the morning of April 26th. Learn how those reactors impacted The Chernobyl Disaster: How It Happened, from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty:


  • Do you think that the Chernobyl plant immediately communicated the radioactive threat to others?

Watch the nightly news broadcast from 4/28/1986: Chernobyl Disaster (courtesy of ABC News Internet Ventures) to learn how the world responded to the accident.

After the accident, people living in Pripyat responded in various ways. Listen to this survivor tell his story in Chernobyl: What happened 30 years ago? BBC News. You will need the closed captions on because he speaks in Ukrainian:


The flow of information out of the Chernobyl power plant was slow, which was a decision that ended up impacting many people. The accident occurred without any notice to the citizens of Pripyat, who were in the exposure zone. It took two days for the world to learn about the nuclear meltdown, by which point the radioactive cloud had moved miles away.

  • What impact do you think the delay in timing had on the health of citizens in Pripyat?
  • How could the damage caused by the disaster have been decreased or lessened?
  • As you listened to the story, did you have an emotional response to the information?
  • Put yourself in the place of a person living in Pripyat; how would you feel on the night on April 26th, 1986?

Write a one-paragraph reflection from this point of view.

Then, move to the Got It? section, where you will analyze the story of Chernobyl in graphical form.

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