Chernobyl Disaster: The Abandoned City Of Pripyat

A park in Pripyat, Ukraine before the Chernobyl Disaster

In what is now the Northern part of Ukraine sits the city of Pripyat. It’s a quiet area that has few signs of natural growth and wildlife running around. Buildings have fallen apart and concrete has been cracked to a point of being beyond repair. Schools and playgrounds sit vacant without the sound of children’s laughter filling the air around them. Office buildings show no signs of business people hustling and bustling around. Malls aren’t overrun with teenagers spending money and hanging out with friends. Yes, Pripyat is a quiet city but it wasn’t always that way. Over thirty years ago it was a city like any other with people and families living their everyday lives like the rest of us. You can now tour the Chernobyl Power Plan with a guide and honestly, I want to do that so bad. It’s definitely on my bucket list. If I end up becoming radioactive maybe I can join the X-Men. I wonder if Nick would do it with me. He can be a big baby when it comes to those kind of things. Love ya, honey!

The Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant (officially known as the Vladimir Lenin Nuclear Power Plant) is a closed nuclear power plant located near the city of Pripyat, Ukraine. The power plant consisted of four RBMK-1000 reactors, each having the ability to produce 1,000 megawatts (MV) of electric power. Construction of the plant and the nearby city Pripyat, to house workers and their families began in 1970. Reactor number one was completed in 1977, followed by reactor number two in 1978, reactor number three in 1981, and finally reactor number four in 1983. Reactor number five was approximately seventy percent completed at the time of the explosion. Reactors number three and four were second-generation units, whereas reactors number one and two were first-generation units. Second-generation RBMK (reaktor bolshoy moshchnosty kanalny) designs were fitted with a more secure containment structure than those of the first generation. It was the third Soviet RBMK nuclear power plant, after the Leningrad Nuclear Power Plant and the Kursk Nuclear Power Plant, and the first plant on Ukrainian soil. 

The power plant is connected to a 330 kilovolt (kV) and 750kV electrical grid. All generators are connected to one common transformer by two switches. The unit transformers are connected to supply power to the plant’s own systems. This means that each generator can be connected to the unit transformer to power the plant, or to the unit transformer and the generator transformer to also feed power to the grid. Yeah, that shit confused me too. My dad has an engineering degree. Maybe he understands it better. Yo Pops, if you’re reading this help your little girl out. Please and thank you.

Usually, the 330kV line was not normally used and served as an external power supply, connected to a station’s transformer (the power plant’s electrical systems). We already established that the plant was powered by its own generators. But it also got power from the 750kV national grid that ran through the main grid backup feed, or from the level feed in grid transformer two. The plan so had two reserve bushbars (a metallic strip or bar, typically housed inside switchgear, panel boards, and subway enclosures). So basically, it got power from damn near anywhere. But wait! There’s more! In case there was a loss of total external power, the essential systems could be powered by diesel generators. The 7A, 7B, 8A, and 8B switchboards for generators seven and eight are connected to three essential power lines attached to coolant pumps. Just in case there was a coolant circuit failure with the loss of external power. Wow, they thought of everything, didn’t they?

Now onto turbo energy! So exciting! But this must be discussed in the name of journalism! Electrical energy was generated by a set of 500 megawatts (MW) hydrogen-cooled turbo generators. These generators were housed in the 1,969 foot long (600 meters) machine hall. This was adjacent to the reactor building. The five-cylinder K-500 65/3000 turbines are supplied by the Kharkiv turbine plant. The turbo generator is 128 feet long (39 meters) and weighs 1,200 tons. The generator is cooled by water while the rotor is cooled by hydrogen. The design and reliability of the turbines earned them the State Prize of Ukraine in 1979. Little did they know. The Kharkiv turbine plant later developed a new version of the turbines. The Chernobyl plant used both new and old ones, with only block four housing the newer version. However, the new turbines turned out to be more sensitive to their operating parameters and had frequent problems with vibrations. SKALA (sistema kontrolya apparata Leningradskoj Atomnoj) was the processor for the RBMK reactor at the Chernobyl power plant. The technology dates back to the 1960s and uses magnetic core memory, magnetic tape data storage, and punched tape for loading software. Don’t ask me what any of those things are because I have no damn clue. SKALA monitored and recorded reactor conditions and control board inputs. The system would continuously monitor the plan and display the information to operators. An additional program called PRIZMA (programma izmereniya moshchnosti apparata) processed plant conditions and made recommendations to guide plant operators. This software took five to ten minutes to run, and could not directly control the reactor.

Well, now that all the technical bullshit is out of the way let’s get to the fun stuff! Okay, it’s not really fun stuff but you know what I mean…. the stuff you came to read about! The meltdowns!

On September 9, 1982, a partial core meltdown occurred in reactor number one due to a faulty cooling valve staying closed after maintenance was performed on the reactor. Once the reactor came back online, the uranium in the tank overheated and ruptured. Luckily the extent of the damage was minor and nobody lost their life. However, due to the negligence of the operators, the accident went unnoticed for several hours. This resulted in a significant release of radiation in the form of uranium oxide and several other radioactive partials escaping from the steam in the reactor through the ventilation stack. The incident was kept secret for many years and proper cleanups took place in and around the power station and city of Pripyat. The reaction was repaired and put back in operation within eight months.

According to Komitet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti (KGB) documents released in Ukraine on April 26,2021, serious incidents occurred in the third and fourth reactors in 1984. According to these documents, the central government in Moscow knew as early as 1983 that the power plant was “one of the most dangerous nuclear power plants in the USSR”. So, they knew that and did nothing to prevent it from being in operation? Okay, cool beans. Specific details about the 1984 incident have not been released to the public. All we know for now is that according to the KGB one did occur.

And that brings us to the most devastating and well-known incident that occurred at the power plant. One that has stirred up curiosity and resulted in books, documentaries, and television shows being made about it. That incident is, drum roll please…. the Chernobyl disaster! Eerie music plays in the background. Turbine run-down energy capability needs to be confirmed experimentally, and tests run on Chernobyl’s turbo generators had all ended unsuccessfully. An initial test in 1982 indicated that the excitation voltage of the turbine generator was insufficient and did not hold the desired magnetic field. The system was modified, and the test was performed again in 1984 but it was unsuccessful once again. The test was conducted a third time in 1985 but the results were the same. The test was to be run again in 1986 and was scheduled to take place during a controlled power-down of reactor number four, which coincided with a planned maintenance outage. The test was to take place during the day shift on April 25, 1986. The crew had been instructed in advance on the reactor operating conditions and a special team of electrical engineers was present as well.

A gradual reduction in the output of the power began at 1:06 am on April 25th and was at fifty percent of its normal thermal level by the start of the day shift. The day shift was scheduled to perform the test at 2:15 pm and preparations leading up to the test were carried out. This included disabling the emergency core cooling system. While this was taking place another regional power station unexpectedly went offline and at 2:00 pm the Kyiv electrical grid controller requested that further reduction of Chernobyl’s output be halted since power was needed to satisfy the peak evening demand. This resulted in the scheduled test being postponed. Despite the delay, the emergency core cooling system was left disabled. The system had to be disconnected by a manual isolating slide valve. This meant that two to three people spent their whole shift manually turning large valve wheels. Allowing reactor four to tun for roughly eleven hours outside of the test without emergency protection was a sign of a general lack of safety culture. At 11:04 pm, the Kyiv grid controller allowed the reactor shutdown to resume. By this time the day shift had been long gone and the evening shift was also getting ready to leave, but the night shift would not take over until midnight. If the test had gone according to plan, it should have been finished during the day shift, and the night shift would only have had to maintain decay heat cooling systems in a shutdown plant.

The night shift had a very small amount of time to prepare to carry out the test. Anatoly Dyatlov, deputy chief engineer of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plan, was present to supervise and direct the test. Unit Shift Supervisor Aleksandr Akimov was in charge of the unit four night shift, and Leonid Toptunov was the Senior Reactor Control Engineer responsible for the reactor’s operational regiment, including the movement of the control rods. Now, let me tell you, this man was twenty-five years old and had worked independently as a senior engineer for only three months. THREE MONTHS. The desired megawatt power for the test was reached at 12:05 am on April 26, 1986. However, due to the reactor’s production of a fission byproduct, (don’t ask me what that is because again, I have no damn clue) xenon-135, power continued to decrease without further operator action. This process is known as reactor poisoning. Xenon-135 is a product of uranium and is the most powerful known neutron-absorbing nuclear poison. How lovely. In normal operation, reactor poisoning can be avoided because xenon-135 is burned off as quickly as it’s created, keeping it stable. With the reactor power reduced, xenon-135 was being produced faster than it was burning off. Once the reactor power decreased to approximately 500 MW, the power control was switched to a different mode to manually maintain the required power level.

Around that same time, the power suddenly fell into a near shutdown state, with a power output of 30 MV or less. The exact circumstances that caused the power fall are unknown because Akimov died in the hospital on May 10, 1986, and Toptunov on May 14, 1986. I’m sorry was that a spoiler? Spoiler alert; people died! Although, most reports attribute to a mistake on Toptunov’s part. Wow, just blame the guy who isn’t around to defend himself. The reactor was now producing only five percent of the minimum initial power recommended for the test. To increase power, control room personnel had to remove numerous control rods from the reactor. The reactor was restored to 160 MW at 12:39 am. The reactor power would be increased to 200 MW within the next twenty minutes. The lower power (and high poisoning level) of reactor number four was accompanied by unstable core temperatures and coolant flow. The control room received multiple emergency signals regarding the low levels in one half of the reactor’s steam/water drums, which also came with drum separator pressure warnings. Operators opened relief valves to let out excess steam into a turbine condenser.

When the power level was back up to 200 MW, preparations for the test continued, even though the power level was much lower than the wanted 700 MW. As part of the test, two additional main circulating coolant pumps were activated at 1:05 am. The increased coolant flow lowered the overall core temperature and reduced the steam voids in the core. The operators removed even more manual control rods to maintain power. By now the number of rods inserted into the reactor had fallen below the required number of fifteen. Do these people actually know what they’re doing or nah? This issue was not noticed by the operators since there was no instrument capable of calculating the inserted rod worth in real-time. The combined effect of all these different variants was an extremely unstable reactor configuration. Almost all of the 211 control rods had been removed manually and excessively high coolant flow rates through the core meant that the coolant was entering the reactor close to the boiling point. Reactor number four was now at risk of a severe increase in its core power with nothing to contain it.

The test began at 1:23 am. Four of the eight main circulating pumps were going to be powered by voltage from the coasting turbine, while the other four pumps received electrical power from the grid as usual. The steam to the turbines was shut off starting a run-down of the turbine generator. The diesel generators booted up and picked up rapidly. As the momentum of the turbine generator decreased, so did the power it gave to the pumps. The water flow decreased, causing a formation of steam voids in the coolant running through the fuel pressure tubes. As recorded by the SKALA centralized control system, an emergency shutdown of the reactor was initiated as the test came to a close. Operators started the scram (emergency shutdown) process by pressing the AZ-5 button of the emergency protection system. This engaged the insertion of the control rods into the reactor (including the ones that had been removed manually). Injecting a control rod downward into the reactor in a scram initially displaced water in the lower part of the reactor (this was due to the design of the mechanism). A few seconds into the scram, a power spike occurred, and the core of the reactor overheated, causing some of the fuel rods to fracture. Within three seconds the reactor output rose above 530 MW. This caused an increase in fuel temperature, steam build-up, and steam pressure. This made the fuel cladding fail, releasing fuel elements into the coolant and popping the channels where the elements were located. Damn, after all the research I’ve done I could successfully run a nuclear power plant because now I know what not to do and what to look out for when operating one.

As the scram continued, the reactor output jumped to approximately 300,000 MW, ten times its normal output. That was the last indicated reading of the power meter on the control panel. This seems to have led to a steam explosion, which is…. well….an explosion of steam. An explosion of a steal boiler from excess vapor pressure may also have occurred, which is…. well…..a steam boiler exploding. These explosions were believed to be brought on by steam pressure leaking from the damaged fuel channels into the reactor’s cooling structure. This resulted in the reactor casing being destroyed, tearing off, and hitting the upper plate called the biological shield, to which the entire reactor assembly is fastened to. Now, let me tell you what happened. This damn biological plate shot straight through the damn roof of the reactor building. This is believed to be the first audible explosion that many Pripyat residents heard. This caused a chain reaction that ruptured further fuel channels and severed most of the coolant lines feeding to the reactor chamber. The remaining coolant turned to steam and escaped the reactor core. A second, much more powerful explosion happened roughly two or three seconds after the first one. This explosion effectively terminated the nuclear chain reaction. More of the reactor containment vessel had also been compromised. Now, any remaining graphite in the damaged channels of the reactor vessel caught fire, contributing to radioactive fallout and the contamination of outlying areas. This is, of course, NO GOOD!

Observers outside unit four claim to have burning lumps of material and sparks shoot into the air above the reactor. Some fell onto the roof of the machine hall, starting a fire. After the second, larger explosion employees at the power station went outside to get a better view of the damage. Survivor, Alexander Yuvchenko, stated that once he stepped outside and looked at the reactor hall, he saw a “very beautiful” laser-like beam of blue light that appeared to be “flooding up into infinity”. Boy, that shit is far from beautiful. Contrary to safety regulations, bitumen, a combustible material had been used in the construction of the roof of the reactor building and turbine hall. At least five fires started on the rood of reactor three., which was still in operation. It was highly important to put those fires out and protect the cooling system of reactor three. The chief of the night shift, Yuri Bagdasarov wanted to shut down reactor three immediately. But chief engineer Nikolai Fomin would not allow it. Ya dumbass! Operators were given respirators and potassium iodide tablets (commonly used in radiation emergencies) and were to continue working. At 5:00 am, Bagdasarov made his own decision to shut down reactor three. Firefighters eventually arrived to extinguish the fires. First on the scene was the Chernobyl Power Station firefighter brigade led by Lieutenant Volodymyr Pravky, who would pass away on May 11, 1986, from acute radiation sickness. They were not informed of how dangerously radioactive the smoke and debris were, and might not have even known that the accident was anything more than a normal electrical fire. Firetruck driver, Grigori Khmel, said “We didn’t know it was the reactor. No one had told us. Those boys who died went up to the roof— Vaschik, Kolya, and others, and Volodya Pravik… They went up the ladder… and I never saw them again.”

Chernobyl after the explosion

The immediate priority was to extinguish fires on the roof of the station and the area around the building housing reactor number four and protecting reactor number three. The fires were extinguished but many unfortunate firefighters received high doses of radiation. The fire inside reactor four continued to burn until May 10, 1986. Approximately 600 Soviet pilots flew helicopters that dropped more than 5,000 tons of sand, lead, clay, and neutron-absorbing boron onto the burning reactor to try and extinguish it. All 600 pilots risked dangerous levels of radiation during their thousands of flights in an attempt to seal off radiation. One firefighter who passed away described the experience of the radiation as “tasting like metal”, and feeling a sensation similar to that of pins and needles all over his face. The explosion threw hot particles of nuclear fuel and far more dangerous fission products, and radioactive isotopes such as cesium-137, iodine-131, strontium-90, and other radionuclides a nuclide that has excess nuclear energy) into the air.

The residents living in the surrounding area of the power plan observed the radioactive cloud on the night of the explosion. The ionizing radiation levels in the worst-hit areas of the reactor building have been estimated to be 5.6 roentgens per second (R/s) (unit of measurement for the exposure of X-rays and gamma rays). That is equivalent to more than 20,000 roentgens per hour. A lethal dose is around 500 roentgens over five hours. This means that in some areas unprotected workers received fatal doses of radiation in less than a minute. Due to broken dosimeters, the levels of radiation were hard to read and gave off inaccurate low readings. Because of this reactor crew chief, Aleksandr Akimov assumed that the reactor was intact and evidence of pieces of graphite and reactor fuel littering around the building was ignored. Akimov stayed with his crew in the reactor building until morning and sent members of his crew to try to pump water into the reactor. None of them wore protective gear and most, including Akimov, passed away from radiation exposure within three weeks.

The nearby city of Pripyat was not immediately evacuated and local townspeople went about their usual business, completely oblivious to what had happened. However, within a few hours of the explosion, dozens of people fell ill. They reported severe headaches and metallic tastes in their mouths, as well as uncontrollable fits of coughing and vomiting. Since the plants were run by authorities in Moscow, the Ukrainian government did not receive prompt information regarding the disaster. Valentyna Shevchenko, Chairwoman of the Presidium of Verkhovna Rada of the Ukranian SSR, recalled that Ukraine’s acting Minister of Internal Affairs Vasyl Durdynets called her work around 9:00 am to inform her of current affairs, at the end of the conversation he added that there had been a fire at Chernobyl but that it was extinguished and everything was fine. When Shevchenko asked “How are the people?”, he replied that there was nothing to be concerned about. Later that day a commission was formed to investigate the accident. It was led by Valery Legasov, First Deputy Director of the Kurchatov Institute of Atomic Energy, and included leading nuclear specialist Evgeny Velikhov, hydro-meteorologist Yuri Izreal, radiologist Leonid Ilyin, among others. By the time the committee was formed two people had died and fifty-two were hospitalized. The group soon had more than enough evidence that the reactor was destroyed and that extremely high levels of radiation had caused several cases of radiation exposure. On April 27, 1986, approximately thirty-six hours after the initial explosion, an evacuation of Pripyat was put in order. It was originally supposed to last for three days but was later made permanent.

By 11:00 am on April 27th, buses had arrived in Pripyat to start the evacuation. A translated excerpt of the evacuation announcement follows: 

“For the attention of the residents of Pripyat! The City Council informs you that due to the accident at Chernobyl Power Station in the city of Pripyat the radioactive conditions in the vicinity are deteriorating. The Communist Party, its officials and the armed forces are taking necessary steps to combat this. Nevertheless, with the view to keep people as safe and healthy as possible, the children being top priority, we need to temporarily evacuate the citizens in the nearest towns of Kiev region. For these reasons, starting from 27 April 1986, 14:00 each apartment block will be able to have a bus at its disposal, supervised by the police and the city officials. It is highly advisable to take your documents, some vital personal belongings and a certain amount of food, just in case, with you. The senior executives of public and industrial facilities of the city has decided on the list of employees needed to stay in Pripyat to maintain these facilities in a good working order. All the houses will be guarded by the police during the evacuation period. Comrades, leaving your residences temporarily please make sure you have turned off the lights, electrical equipment and water and shut the windows. Please keep calm and orderly in the process of this short-term evacuation” 

To expedite the evacuation, residents were told to bring only what was necessary, and that the evacuation would last three days. As a result, most personal belongings were left behind, and remain there today. By 3:00 pm 53,000 people were evacuated to various villages in the Kyiv region. The next day, discussions about the evacuation of people from the 6.2-mile zone started. Ten days after, the evacuation zone expanded to 19 miles. The Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant Exclusion Zone has remained ever since, although its size has been expanded. The surveying of isolated fallout hotspots outside this zone over the following year resulted in 135,000 long-term evacuees agreeing to be moved. Between 1986 and 2000 the number of permanently resettled residents from the most contaminated areas nearly tripled to approximately 350,000. The evacuation began a day and a half before the incident was publicly announced by the Soviet Union. On the morning of April 28, 1986, radiation levels set off alarms at the Forsmark Nuclear Power Plant in Sweden, over 620 miles from the Chernobyl plant. Workers at Forsmark reported the case to the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority, who determined that the radiation had originated elsewhere.

On April 28th at 9:02 pm an announcement was read on the television news show Vremya:

There has been an accident at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. One of the nuclear reactors was damaged. The effects of the accident are being remedied. Assistance has been provided for any affected people. An investigative commission has been set up.” 

That was the entire announcement, and the first time the Soviet Union officially announced a nuclear disaster. Around the same time, ABC News released its own report about the incident. A radiological checkpoint was soon set up in Vilcha for anyone leaving Chernobyl and the surrounding areas. Several buildings in Pripyat were kept open to be used by workers not evacuated and still involved with working on the plant. These included the Jupiter Factory (closed in 1996), and the Azure Swimming Pool (closed in 1998), used by Chernobyl liquidators for recreation during the clean-up. Ah, nothing like going for a nice dip in the pool after catching some rays from radiation. Two levels of bubbler pool under the reactor served as a large water reservoir for the emergency cooling pumps. The third level below the reactor served as a steam tunnel. After the disaster, the pools and the basement of the building were flooded because of the ruptured cooling pipes and firefighter water. The smoldering graphite, fuel, and other material started to burn through the reactor floor creating corium (a radioactive material comparable to lava). It was a concern that this would cause further contamination to the area. The government was unaware of this issue and directed that the bubbler pools be drained through its sluice gates. However, the valves controlling the gates were located in a flooded area and three volunteers ( Alexei Ananenko, Valeri Bezpalov, and Boris Baranov) in diving suits and respirators entered the radioactive water to open them. All three men were later awarded the Order For Courage by former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in May 2018.

Once the valves were opened, fire brigade pumps were used to drain the basement. The assignment was completed on May 8, 1986, after 20,000 tons of water was pumped out. The government was concerned that the molten core from the reactor would burn into the earth and contaminate the groundwater. To stop the likelihood of this, it was decided to freeze the earth beneath the reactor to stabilize the foundation. But the idea was quickly scrapped when it was estimated that roughly 55,000 pounds of liquid nitrogen per day would be required to keep the soil frozen for a substantial period. Instead, subway workers and coal miners were sent to excavate a tunnel below the reactor to make room for a cooling system. The system was designed by Leonid Bolshov in 1988. The tunnel was filled with concrete to strengthen the foundation of the reactor. Once the open-air reactor fire was extinguished, steps needed to be taken to prevent the spread of contamination due to wind action or birds (they would land on the wreckage, become contaminated, and fly elsewhere). Rain falling on the wreckage could also weaken what was left of the reactor structure through corrosion. One of the biggest challenges was to reduce the large amounts of emitted gamma radiation, which was hazardous to workers still operating reactor three. A decision was made to enclose the wrecked reactor in a steel and concrete shelter, known as the “Sarcophagus”.

It has to be erected (hehe….I said erected) quickly and in high ambient levels of gamma radiation. The construction went on from June to November of 1986. The construction included building walls around the reactor, clearing and surface concreting the surrounding ground to remove sources of radiation, constructing a thick radiation shield wall, fabricating a high-rise buttress to strengthen parts of the old structure, building a roof, and provisioning a ventilation extract system. While the sarcophagus was being built, a scientific team, entered the reactor to locate and contain nuclear fuel to prevent another explosion. They monitored rates of radiation by drilling holes into the reactor and inserting metal detector tubes. All of the scientists were exposed to high levels of radiation and radioactive dust. In December 1986 the team discovered that an intensely radioactive mass, more than six feet and seven inches wide, had formed in the basement of unit four. It was dubbed “the elephant’s foot” and was made up of melted sand, concrete, and a large amount of nuclear fuel. But it was concluded that the reactor showed no further risk of explosion.

The Chernobyl Sarcophagus (New Safe Confinement)

The official contaminated zones required a massive clean-up effort lasting seven months. Many emergency vehicles used by liquidators were buried in trenches. And as of 2018 those vehicles, along with helicopters have remained parked in a field of the Chernobyl area. However, scavengers have managed to remove many functioning but highly radioactive parts. The liquidators worked under horrendous conditioned, were poorly informed about the situation, and had pathetic protection. Most of the exceeded radiation safety limits. The liquidators sent to take care of other urban areas near the power plant washed buildings with a sticky fluid called “Barda”, designed to entrap radioactive dust. A “clean up” medal was awarded to the liquidators.

Europe. Initial evidence that radioactive material was affecting other countries came not from Soviet sources, but Sweden. On the morning of April 28, 1986, workers at the Forsmark Nuclear Power Plant (roughly 680 miles from Chernobyl) were found to have radioactive particles on their clothes. After determining there was no leak at the Swedish plant in the afternoon of April 28th determined there was no leak at the Swedish plan, which hinted to a serious nuclear problem in the western Soviet Union.

Tons of investigations have been done over the years to try and determine what exactly happened at the Chernobyl Power Plant that fateful day. A criminal trial even took place. But I’m not going to get into all that. Instead, I’m going to tell you about some other incidents that have occurred after reactor number four’s explosion. In October 1991, reactor number two was permanently shut down shortly after a fire broke out due to a faulty switch in a turbine. The fire took place on October 11th and began in reactor number two’s fourth turbine, while it was being idled for repairs. A surge of current ignited insulating material on some electrical wiring. The adjacent reactor hall and reactor were unaffected. The decision to shut down the reactor was due to the political climate at the time.

In 2017, the Petya cyberattack affected the radiation monitoring system and caused the power plant’s official website to go offline. This incident is probably still fresh in our brains since it literally just happened. On February 24, 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine and incited a war. Russian forces attacked Ukrainian forces near the site of the Chernobyl disaster and took control of the ruined power plant. This activity led to an increase in radiation levels in the area due to the disruption of contaminated soil. Corresponding sensors at the plant exhibited no increase. Workers monitoring the power plant have been stuck inside for approximately twelve days. Why Russia wants Chernobyl is beyond me.

In September 2010, construction started on a new steel containment structure named “New Safe Confinement” to replace the deteriorating sarcophagus. It was financed by an international fund managed by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and was built by the French-led association Novarka. In February 2013, a 6,458 square foot portion of the roof and wall next to the covered part of the turbine hall collapsed into the entombed area of the turbine hall. No change in radiation levels as a result of the collapse was detected. The collapsed roof was later repaired. Novarka built a large arch-shaped steel structure. It was 886 feet wide, 328 feet high, and 492 feet long. It was built in two segments that were joined in August 2015. In November 2016, the completed structure was placed over the existing sarcophagus. The steel enclosure cost approximately $1.4 million and was completed in 2017. A deal was made with the American firm Holtec International to build a storage facility within the exclusion zone for the nuclear waste produced by Chernobyl. The facility was completed in 2020 and on November 18th the first canister of nuclear waste was stored.

Pripyat, Ukraine today

I know that was a lot to take in and I appreciate you hanging in there with me. But there was a lot of information to share on the Chernobyl incident since it was such a catastrophic event. As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, I would love to visit Chernobyl and see what it looks like after the explosion and the area surrounding it. But that’s my choice. The people who lived through it, the people who got sick, the people who died, and the people who were forced out of their homes did not have a choice and to me, that’s not fair. But life as we know is unfortunately unfair at times.

I stand with Ukraine and my thoughts go out to the country and all the people who live there. But I truly believe they will persevere because hate never wins.

Thanks for reading and remember, make love not war!


“Chernobyl Disaster” – Wikipedia

“Chernobyl Accident 1986” – World Nuclear Association

“Chernobyl Disaster” – Britannica

“Chernobyl Miniseries” – HBO


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