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Forty years after the Chernobyl disaster, nuclear is still going strong

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Chernobyl was and still is the biggest nuclear incident to have happened on Earth, with reactor number 4’s meltdown leading to an immediate evacuation of the entire area and spreading a radioactive cloud that stretched from France to Russia. The Ukrainian plant located in the now abandoned town of Pripyat, is now under split control of local authorities and the United Nations.

Chernobyl radiation map 1996 – source wiki: CIA Factbook, Sting, MTruch, Makeemlighter

To prevent further radioactive emissions and potential degradation of the reactor, the New Safe Confinement (NSC) was built to help keep gasses from escaping the doomed building. Essentially a giant sarcophagus, it is routinely maintained and upgraded to ensure no further incidents. Chernobyl has served as a catalyst for many countries’ decision to abandon their nuclear energy programs, with many pointing towards the potential irreversible damage a full meltdown could create.

chernobyl sarcophagus building
Building of “The New Safe Confinement (NSC) was built to help keep gasses from escaping the doomed building.”

Indeed, even forty years after the Chernobyl Power Plant suffered a “beyond design-basis accident”, there have been lasting effects in the region. Apart from the complete evacuation of the surrounding area, several thousand square kilometres of land have been designated unsafe for habitation and farming activities. People who lived in Pripyat of areas that were covered by the cloud of radioactivity have reported birth defects, several types of cancer and various illnesses, which have all been linked to the 1986 incident.

pripyat, radio active building
pripyat, radio active building

Radioactivity level in the city are still too high for continued activity, and people who work neat the reactor must constantly don protective clothing and have a maximum amount of time allotted to them after which they must leave the area and be decontaminated. As such, Chernobyl serves as a reminder of the power of nuclear technology. Tests in the Pacific as well as the deserts of the United States and Australia have also left an indelible mark on the environments of those places.

chernobyl ferris wheel
Chernobyl Ferris wheel

The latest incident in Fukushima, although nowhere as dangerous as the one in Chernobyl, also served as a deterrent for many. Despite not leaking significant amounts of radioactivity and engineers able to save the reactor from a potential meltdown caused by a series of freak occurrences (a tsunami and earthquake), the land surrounding the Japanese reactor has also been condemned.

That isn’t to say that there can’t be any good stories to come out of those nuclear incidents. France has continued to pioneer nuclear technology, and now has the most active plants in the world, with which it powers 75% of the country. Meanwhile, in a poetic act, it has also been revealed that the Chernobyl plant itself may see life again – as a solar farm.

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