And on this horrific anniversary we have now seen the stumble of a very bad climate bill. The events are directly related.
Chernobyl's death toll has been bitterly debated.
But after nearly a quarter-century of industry denial, the New York Academy of Sciences has published, Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment, the definitive catalog and analysis. Drawing on some 5,000 studies, three Russian scientists have placed the ultimate death toll at 985,000.
As Karl Grossman has shown, Chernobyl's death toll stretches worldwide. Its apocalyptic cloud blanketed Europe and blew across the northern tier of the United States. Sheep in Scotland and milk in New England were heavily contaminated, along with countless square miles of land and sea.
Ohio's Davis-Besse may have come within a fraction of an inch of such a disaster, and has again been found with potentially apocalyptic structural flaws. Michigan's Fermi I and the infamous Three Mile Island Unit 2 did melt.
Which is where the climate bill comes in.
Widespread reports of what it contained were to be clarified with its planned introduction on Chernobyl Day. But co-sponsor Lindsay Graham (R-SC) abruptly withdrew, apparently amidst partisan wrangling over immigration.
By all accounts this bill included a fossil industry wish-list, with big money for "clean coal," off-shore drilling, a disembowelment of the EPA and much more. With oil fires raging at sea and miners being buried in the coal fields, how this bill would actually solve the climate crisis remains unclear.
What WAS clear were subsidies that John Kerry (D-MA) said would put taxpayers on the hook for at least a dozen new reactors,and possibly far more.
The details are temporarily moot, but the portent is not.
Chernobyl exploded in a remote backwater of an impoverished region. But by official accounts from Ukraine and Belarus, it did $500 billion in damage just there. Nowhere in the US would the property damage be remotely that small. The near-million death toll would be a mere fraction of how many would die here.
Nothing in any known draft of this now-in-limbo climate bill demands private insurance against such a catastrophe. Nor does it have a solution for what to do with 60,000 tons of high-level radioactive waste, or thousands more yet to come.