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.
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.
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.
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
It overheated and built up pressure, until its structure failed
and it blew up.
It took the Soviet authorities a whole day to comprehend the
scale of the disaster, and to order the full evacuation of
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...
...and erect a metal and concrete shelter over Reactor 4.
For two weeks, the devastated reactor building was leaking fumes
of contaminated waste, despite desperate attempts to seal it up.
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.
Fallout from Chernobyl continues to wreak havoc to human health,
almost three decades on from the disaster.
Emergency workers who tackled the disaster died and suffered
massive damage to their health.
There are also more cancer risks and a huge expulsion zone in the
middle of Europe.
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.
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.