Tuesday, 1 March 2016

After Chernobyl: 30 Years On

by Will Hall

The city of Pripyat, situated in the far north of Ukraine, was home to 50,000 people by mid April 1986. This city is widely known as the site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster, where reactor 4 at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant unexpectedly exploded. The city and all of its 50,000 inhabitants, except the 31 who were killed at the power plant, were evacuated the day after the accident, and very few have lived in the city since. To get a sense of scale the Chernobyl disaster put 400 times as much radioactive material into the atmosphere as the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945, which is why Hiroshima is now a thriving city, yet Pripyat is still a ghost town.

The city currently sits in a 1000 square mile exclusion zone, as the surrounding area still contains excessive levels of radiation caused from the nuclear fallout. Officially nobody is supposed to live within the exclusion zone, though it is thought that between 150-200 people live illegally within the zone, with many of them residing in the ruins of the city of Pripyat. As the city has been effectively untouched since the disaster, nature has taken its grasp on the city, and photos taken from within Pripyat in the last few years show how little time it takes for a city to be overwhelmed by nature.

Amongst the most iconic photos of Pripyat is the ferris wheel that was part of the Pripyat Theme Park, and also the eerie remains of reactor 4 at the plant itself. Pripyat will not be habitable for another 600 years, and there will still be traces of radiation for upwards of 40,000 years. The city of Pripyat stands as a city frozen in time, and the exclusion zone represents 1000 square miles of Eastern Europe that has become uninhabitable thanks to nuclear technology. 

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