35 years after nuclear disaster, Chernobyl warns, inspires, Energy News, ET EnergyWorld
KYIV, Ukraine: The vast and empty Chernobyl exclusion zone around the site of the world’s worst nuclear accident is a deadly monument to human error. Yet 35 years after a power plant reactor exploded, Ukrainians are also looking to him for inspiration, solace and income.
Reactor No. 4 at the power station 110 kilometers north of the capital Kiev exploded and caught fire on the night of April 26, 1986, shattering the building and spewing radioactive material into the sky.
Soviet authorities compounded the disaster by failing to tell the public what had happened – although the nearby town of workers at the Pripyat factory was evacuated the next day, Kiev’s 2 million residents did not not informed despite the danger of fallout. The world only learned of the disaster after the detection of increased radiation in Sweden.
Eventually, more than 100,000 people were evacuated from the surrounding area and a 2,600 square kilometer (1,000 square miles) exclusion zone was created where the only activity was to dispose of trash and care for a hand-built sarcophagus. hurry covering the reactor.
Radiation continued to leak from the reactor building until 2019, when the entire building was covered by a huge arch-shaped shelter. As robots inside the shelter began to dismantle the reactor, officials felt renewed optimism about the area.
“It is a place of tragedy and memory, but it is also a place where one can see how a person can overcome the consequences of a global catastrophe,” said Bohdan Borukhovskyi, Ukrainian deputy minister of the ‘Environment.
“We want a new narrative to emerge – this was not an exclusion zone, but an area of ââdevelopment and renewal,” he said. For him, this story includes the promotion of tourism.
“Our tourism is unique, it is not a classic concept of tourism,” he said. “It is an area of ââmeditation and reflection, an area where you can see the impact of human error, but you can also see the human heroism correcting it.”
The Chernobyl zone has seen its tourism double after the acclaimed 2019 TV miniseries and officials hope the level of interest will continue or increase once the global pandemic recedes.
One of the main draws for tourists is to see the ruins of Pripyat, the once modern city of 50,000 inhabitants now overgrown with decay and vegetation. Work is underway to create paths to make it easier for visitors to navigate the ruins.
The Chernobyl plant is out of service, but there is still a lot of work to be done at the decommissioned plant. Borukhovskyi said its four reactors were not to be dismantled until 2064.
Ukraine has also decided to use the deserted area as a site for its centralized storage facility for spent fuel from the country’s four remaining nuclear power plants, which is due to open this year. Until recently, fuel was phased out in Russia.
Storing spent fuel at home will save the country about $ 200 million per year.
“We are doing everything possible to ensure that this territory, where it is now impossible for people to live, is used profitably and makes a profit for the country,” said Serhiy Kostyuk, head of the agency that manages the area. exclusion.
Although the radiation level in the area is low enough for tourists to visit and workers to do their jobs, permanent residence is prohibited. However, more than 100 people still live in the area that stretches for 30 kilometers (18 miles) around the nuclear power plant, despite orders to leave the site.
Among them, the 85-year-old former teacher Yevgeny Markevich said: âIt is a great joy to live at home, but it is sad that it is not like it used to be.
Today, he grows potatoes and cucumbers on his garden plot, which he has tested “in order to partially protect me”.
The long-term effects on human health are still the subject of intense scientific debate. Immediately after the accident, 30 factory workers and firefighters died from acute radiation sickness. Thousands of people later died from radiation-related illnesses such as cancer.
To the surprise of many who expected the area to be a dead zone for centuries, wildlife is on the rise: bears, bison, wolves, lynxes, wild horses and dozens of animals. he species of birds live in this landless territory.
According to scientists, the animals were much more resistant to radiation than expected and were able to adapt quickly to strong radiation. Ukrainian scientists are studying this phenomenon with colleagues from Japan and Germany.
“It’s a gigantic land … in which we keep a record of nature,” said biologist Denis Vishnevskiy, 43, who has observed nature in the reserve for 20 years. “The exclusion zone is not a curse, but our resource”
The Ukrainian authorities are asking that the exclusion zone be inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, because the object is a unique place “of interest to all mankind”. Ukraine’s Ministry of Culture has already taken steps to recognize the area as a monument, which will attract more funding and tourists.
“Chernobyl must not become a wild playground for adventure hunters,” Ukrainian Culture Minister Oleksandr Tkachenko said. “People should leave the exclusion zone aware of the historical memory of this place and its importance to all mankind.”
In the spirit of preserving the memories, some enthusiasts created the Chornobyl app, which includes declassified documents about the disaster and allows users to explore the augmented reality view of the area and structures.
“Sixty percent of Ukrainians do not know the date of the accident and we have decided that there should be a resource where a lot of verified information is collected,” said Valeriy Korshunov, one of the developers of the app. free.