#Open journalism No news is bad news

Your contributions will help us continue to deliver the stories that are important to you

Support The Journal
Dublin: 18°C Sunday 13 June 2021
Advertisement

'This is a place of tragedy and memory': 35 years on from the Chernobyl disaster

A reactor at the nuclear power plant exploded on 26 April 1986.

An abandoned Ferris wheel in the ghost town of Pripyat, close to the Chernobyl nuclear plant.
An abandoned Ferris wheel in the ghost town of Pripyat, close to the Chernobyl nuclear plant.
Image: PA

THIRTY-FIVE YEARS after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, Ukrainians view the site not only as a monument to human mistakes but also as a source of inspiration, solace and income.

Reactor No 4 at the power plant 65 miles north of the capital Kyiv exploded and caught fire deep in the night on April 26, 1986, shattering the building and spewing radioactive material high into the sky in what remains the world’s worst nuclear accident.

Soviet authorities made the catastrophe worse by failing to tell the public what had happened. Although the nearby plant workers’ town of Pripyat was evacuated the next day, the two million residents of Kyiv were not informed despite the fallout danger. The world learned of the disaster only after heightened radiation was detected in Sweden.

Eventually, more than 100,000 people were evacuated from the vicinity and a 1,000-square-mile exclusion zone was established where the only activity was workers disposing of waste and tending to a hastily built sarcophagus covering the reactor.

Radiation continued to leak from the reactor building until 2019, when the entire building was covered by an enormous arch-shaped shelter. As robots inside the shelter began dismantling the reactor, officials felt new optimism about the zone.

“This is a place of tragedy and memory, but it is also a place where you can see how a person can overcome the consequences of a global catastrophe,” said Bohdan Borukhovskyi, Ukraine’s deputy environment minister.

“We want a new narrative to appear — it was not a zone of exclusion, but a zone of development and revival.”

For him, that narrative includes encouraging tourism.

“Our tourism is unique, it is not a classic concept of tourism,” he said. “This is an area of ​​meditation and reflection, an area where you can see the impact of human error, but you can also see the human heroism that corrects it.”
Chernobyl recorded a twofold increase in tourism after the lauded HBO television mini-series of the same name in 2019, and officials hope that level of interest will continue, or grow, once the global pandemic has receded.

One of the prime draws for tourists is to see the ruins of Pripyat, the once-modern town of 50,000 now being taken over by decay and vegetation. Work is underway to build paths to make it easier for visitors to navigate the ruins.

#Open journalism No news is bad news Support The Journal

Your contributions will help us continue to deliver the stories that are important to you

Support us now

The Chernobyl plant is out of service, but there is still much work to be done at the decommissioned plant. Mr Borukhovskyi said all four of its reactors would be dismantled only by 2064.

Ukraine also has decided to use the deserted zone as the site for its centralised storage facility for the spent fuel from the country’s four remaining nuclear power plants, and that is to open this year. Until recently, the fuel was disposed of in Russia.

Storing the spent fuel at home will save the country an estimated 200 million dollars (£144 million) a year.

About the author:

Press Association

Read next:

COMMENTS (24)

This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
write a comment

    Leave a commentcancel