Twenty-five years ago tomorrow, an explosion blew the roof off the concentration nuclear reactor in Ukraine, spreading radioactive material over Europe.
Workers and firefighters - 31 of them paying with their lives - battled to contain the disaster. Ultimately 4,000 may die from the effects of radioactive contamination, according to the World Health Organisation.
It was the worst nuclear accident in history, rating 7, the worst possible, on the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale. Until the Fukushima accident in Japan last month, it was the only time this level had been reached.
An ill-conceived test of the reactor's systems had led the Ukraine plant to run out of control. But like all disasters, Chernobyl arose from a combination of many causes. The plant had a poor safety culture, with unclear and contradictory operating procedures. The planned test was interrupted and resumed when the poorly prepared night-shift staff had just come on duty.
Most importantly, the reactor was badly designed. It was unstable when running at low power and when safety systems were first activated, they caused an immediate surge in power before taking effect.
As the water in the core began to boil, it absorbed fewer neutrons, causing a runaway reaction. The core was moderated with graphite, which caught fire and carried radioactive dust into the atmosphere.
And the reactor had no containment shell, a concrete carapace that forms the final safety barrier in modern designs.
Chernobyl's wider effects on energy were profound. The world had been steadily, albeit unintentionally, decarbonising, as coal was replaced with oil and gas, and these were in turn beginning to be substituted by nuclear electricity generation, which emits no carbon dioxide during operation.
This tendency accelerated after the 1970s oil crisis.
The late French prime minister Pierre Messmer's eponymous plan, an ambitious scheme of nuclear construction, led France to generate 80 per cent of its electricity from nuclear power.
France is the world's largest electricity exporter, and has some of the lowest electricity prices in Europe.
But Chernobyl led to a virtual halt in nuclear expansion elsewhere: an accident that could not have occurred in a modern plant nevertheless tarnished the whole industry.
Even in countries that retained nuclear plans, endless safety redesigns, legal challenges and environmentalist campaigns made new plants uneconomic. And opposition to nuclear power came to define the Green movement.
As Dr Leonhard Birnbaum of the utility giant RWE explained at the Dubai Global Energy Forum last week, Germany's emulation of France's nuclear plans was replaced by burning lignite (brown coal), one of the dirtiest, most carbon-intensive fuels.
The US had already experienced the much less serious Three Mile Island accident in 1979, and turned back to coal. Italians voted in 1987 to phase out nuclear power.
Like Chernobyl, Japan's was a unique accident. In retrospect, the plant's site was clearly unsuitable, yet nobody has died at Fukushima. The concern is now that Fukushima will result in a re-run of the post-Chernobyl rejection of nuclear power, a decision described by an Italian economic minister as a "terrible mistake" that had cost his country €50 billion (Dh267.42bn).
Germany has once again reversed course on nuclear, and it seems likely that its remaining nuclear plants will be decommissioned. Ironically, it is now importing electricity to make up the lost capacity - from French nuclear stations.
Germany is not subject to earthquakes and tsunamis, and its moratorium is a knee-jerk reaction unworthy of such a well-governed country.
As Giuseppe Zollino, a nuclear engineer and professor of energy economics at the University of Padua, told Bloomberg News: "It's a pity, people were slowly coming round to nuclear … now we're back into paranoia.
The maddening thing is there is no plan, just to keep paying more for energy."
Prof Zollino could have added that, in addition to increased costs, a rejection of nuclear power will once again lead to more burning of coal and gas - and probably thousands more deaths from air pollution and in coal mining.
Despite environmentalists' dreams, only a small amount of lost nuclear capacity will be replaced by renewables. Indeed, modern nuclear plants able to adjust output quickly are an ideal zero-carbon complement to variable wind and solar power.
Some environmentalists, such as George Monbiot, the UK green commentator, still support nuclear power for its low-carbon advantages.
Fortunately, it seems the UAE's nuclear programme will continue, with appropriate safeguards.
But 25 years have not been enough for most to learn the right lessons from Chernobyl and now Fukushima. The real danger is that we, and the climate, will pay heavily.
Robin Mills is an energy economist based in Dubai and author of The Myth of the Oil Crisisand Capturing Carbon