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city in Ukraine (Ukrainian Chornobyl), from Russian chernobylnik "mugwort." Site of 1986 nuclear disaster.
A place in Ukraine where a nuclear power plant — a generator powered by a nuclear reactor — underwent a meltdown in 1986. A cloud of radioactive gases spread throughout the region of Chernobyl and to foreign countries as well. Forty thousand people living nearby were evacuated. Dozens of deaths and hundreds of illnesses were reported to have been caused by the accident. (Compare Three Mile Island.)