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26 Apr, 2014 14:36

Chernobyl then and now: 28 haunting images from nuclear disaster

Chernobyl then and now: 28 haunting images from nuclear disaster

April 26 is the day the world commemorates the worst-ever nuclear disaster. Twenty-eight years after the Chernobyl power plant blew up, RT remembers the tragedy and takes a look at the changes that time has wrought to the fallout zone.

Chernobyl was the first nuclear power plant in Soviet Ukraine, a flagship of the peaceful atomic energy program of the USSR.

The first nuclear power plant in Ukraine (RIA Novosti)

Just 3 kilometers from the plant, the city of Pripyat was built. Its purpose was to house nuclear experts and workers servicing the plant, as well as security troops.

New shift starting work at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant (RIA Novosti)

A residence for highly skilled and educated Soviet citizens, it was meant at the time to be a model Soviet city, with forward-thinking town planning and modern architecture.

Housing estate in town of Pripyat, Kiev Region. (RIA Novosti)

But early in the morning of April 26, 1986, the nuclear industry's flagship met its iceberg. But unlike the Titanic, Chernobyl's disaster was due to human error, first and foremost.

A technical experiment went awry, sending Reactor No. 4 into meltdown.

The control room of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant at Pripyat. (RIA Novosti)

It overheated and built up pressure, until its structure failed and it blew up.

View of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant's fourth reactor in this May 1986 file photo. (Reuters)

It took the Soviet authorities a whole day to comprehend the scale of the disaster, and to order the full evacuation of Pripyat.

Decontamination of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant buildings. (RIA Novosti)

In three hours some 50,000 people left the city, not knowing that they would never return.

In the following seven months massive effort was made to decontaminate affected areas...

Military hardware working in the Chernobyl disaster area undergoes decontamination at the special point. (RIA Novosti)

...and erect a metal and concrete shelter over Reactor 4.

The building of the sarcophagus around the fourth reactor of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant after its explosion is seen in this 1986 file photo. (Reuters)

For two weeks, the devastated reactor building was leaking fumes of contaminated waste, despite desperate attempts to seal it up.

Liquidator team ready to climb the Chernobyl nuclear reactor top after the disaster. (RIA Novosti)

Ukraine, Russia and Belarus sustained the most damage, although increased radiation was detected far across Europe.


While Reactor No. 4 was damaged beyond repair, other parts of the power station remained functional. Shut down in the wake of the blast, Reactors 1, 2 and 3 were restarted between October 1986 and December 1987. Chernobyl continued producing nuclear power until December 2000.

A worker at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant checks the radiation level in the engine room of the first and second power units in this June 5, 1986 file photo. (Reuters)

Fallout from Chernobyl continues to wreak havoc to human health, almost three decades on from the disaster.

Olga Derzhutskaya, 6, undergoes medical observation after an operation for thyroid cancer at the ra diation medicine center in Gomel, April 9, 1996 (Reuters)

Emergency workers who tackled the disaster died and suffered massive damage to their health.

A worker of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant gives way to emotion during commemorations at the station marking the 10th anniversary of the explosion in the station's fourth reactor in Chernobyl April 26, 1996 (Reuters)

There are also more cancer risks and a huge expulsion zone in the middle of Europe.

A father feeds his child in the Belarus capital of Minsk special hospital, which deals with radiation related illnesses April 23, 1996. A small amount of radiation escaped at the Chernobyl nuclear power station on the eve of the 10th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear disaster it was reported April 25, 1996 (Reuters)

Pripyat and a handful of old villages near Chernobyl plant are ghosts, although a few evacuated residents decided to return in defiance of the danger still posed by radiation.


While living in the exclusion zone is not the best idea, radiation levels have dropped low enough for short visits to be safe. Chernobyl is an interesting destination for scientists and adventurous tourists now.

The once-glorious city of engineers and scientists is in disarray, retaken by wildlife and crumbling from the ravages of time and neglect.


The floor of the post office is littered with letters that will never be delivered.

Pripyat Ferris wheel stands as a testament to the tragedy. It was supposed to open on May 1. Some reports say city authorities launched it on April 26 to distract people from spreading rumors of the nuclear disaster.


Along with the wheel, the electric-car park was the newest family entertainment to open in Pripyat. It is now bleak and joyless.


This café was popular among Pripyat residents who appreciated its artistic stained-glass windows.


Rusty trains stand still on rusty rails, abandoned by their passengers and crew.


Apart from the nuclear power plant there was another heavily guarded facility in what is now exclusion zone. RT was the first international TV outlet to visit the secret early missile launch radar near Chernobyl. The installation may look familiar to moviegoers – the fence surrounding a dystopian Chicago in the movie “Divergent” is of the same design.

The old shelter is crumbling and will eventually fail, opening the environment to the worst of the contamination again. A consortium of foreign donors are constructing a replacement.

A man looks at the New Safe Confinement (NSC) structure at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant April 23, 2013. (Reuters/Gleb Garanich)

The project was expected to be completed by October 2015 costing some 1.54 billion euro.

But now Ukraine is in disarray and is consumed with contemporary conflicts rather than radioactive legacies of Chernobyl.

The first half of the Chernobyl New Safe Confinement, or NSC, an arch that which will cover the reactor building, is seen after it was pushed to its site at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power plant on April 3, 2014. (AFP Photo/Anatoly Stepanov)