Some of us were glued to the TV when HBO aired its critically acclaimed limited series about the USSR era disaster, Chernobyl. We were thrilled by the terror, the chaos, the unearthly effects from something man-made — the reality of it, that somewhere in the world still sat a site of unimaginable scarred land waiting, unhealed and untouchable except through the medicine of time.
The nuclear disaster that took place in Chernobyl has haunted the world on the global scale since the reactor’s meltdown in 1986. 35 years later, there’s evidence of positive and negative changes in what remains a devastating blow on our quest to sustain our energy-hungry lives.
The design flaw of the reactor combined with what has been deemed inadequately trained workers led to the ’86 accident which took 2 lives on the night of the explosion and claimed nearly 30 more in the coming weeks. Those exposed succumbed to acute radioactive poisoning, with radiation spreading as far as Sweden, with far reaching consequences for all of Europe. But what about the land, and can it be reclaimed?
Currently no human life thrives in Chernobyl, where cleanup of the site and surrounding area will continue for decades and certain areas will remain inhospitable for life for up to 20,000 more years by some estimates. The reactor’s site hides within the world’s largest sarcophagus, made first of a sturdy mix concrete and steel meant to contain the dangerous materials inside, later replaced in 2016 by an entirely steel barrier. But little was done to great effect immediately after the explosion and for the following weeks after more than 122,000 square miles were contaminated, though the majority, roughly 70% of this area, remains in Ukraine, Russia and Belarus, with stronger deposits in those areas that experienced rain during contamination.
The surrounding forests of the site are now called The Red Forest, after the mutation of the trees to brittle red from the radiation before dying off. There have been indications of returning, even thriving, wildlife, which is studied for nuclear fallout patterns in the now abandoned town of Pripyat and surrounding areas. Evidence of mutations but a return to vibrancy in the wildlife, due much in part to the lack of human presence, such as the “Chernobyl wolves” and the irregular looking fire bugs, continue though beyond that, the Exclusion Zone remains shrouded in speculation, mystery and fear.
Lillian MacCartney, Business Development YvesBlue
Nuclear reactions appear to be once rekindled and are described as “like embers in a barbecue pit,” read Richard Stone’s article here.
Ukrainian spirit maker’s Chernobyl apple-based vodka is seized by authorities during distribution: read more here.
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