These Photos Of Abandoned Chernobyl Remind Us Of The Fragility And Resilience Of Life

Published May 30, 2017
Updated January 15, 2019
Published May 30, 2017
Updated January 15, 2019

These photos from the last 20 years of Chernobyl's aftermath are a sobering tribute to the displaced families and the brave cleanup crew.

First Photo
Entering Chernobyl
Debris Clearers
Abandoned Kindergarten
These Photos Of Abandoned Chernobyl Remind Us Of The Fragility And Resilience Of Life
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Just before its meltdown in 1986, the Chernobyl nuclear power plant served as a decent proxy for the state of the Soviet Union: The isolated plant used outdated, Soviet-era reactors with few safety features — it was only a matter of time before it faltered entirely.

And on April 26, that's precisely what happened. Reactor number four became unstable when running at a low power and the subsequent chain reaction ended in a giant steam explosion. With a reactor core now exposed to the atmosphere, radiation spilled into the surrounding towns.

In its wake, 115,000 locals evacuated from the plant's surrounding areas. The Soviet government relocated another 220,000 people shortly after.

Chernobyl burned for ten days. The nearby population blamed radiation poisoning for a spate of health issues, and subsequent reports backed their claims up. For instance, a 1995 United Nations report stated that the disaster caused a 100-percent increase in cancer and leukemia in children.

The uptick in radiation-related cancer seemed to abate over time, though of course it is difficult to determine exact causality between disease and a single event.

That aside, by the year 2000, the World Nuclear Association noted that apart from an increase in thyroid cancers, the UN no longer attributed other area health consequences to lingering radiation.

These days, Chernobyl continues to serve as a site of significant popular and scientific interest. NASA, for instance, has taken to study the organisms that survived Chernobyl in hopes of developing a radiation blocker for astronauts. Studying these fungi and other organisms, NASA says, could eventually help scientists learn to grow crops on other planets as well.

Meanwhile, some reports have circulated that Chernobyl may be transformed into a solar farm. In political decision-making circles, critics still point to the Chernobyl disaster when questions of nuclear power are brought to the fore as a way to provide cheap energy to a consistently growing global population.

The photos above remind us just how fragile life — regardless of the ideologies or technologies that vow to protect or enhance it — really is.

Next, read about what's keeping people from returning to Fukushima. Then, discover four nuclear testing sites that humans destroyed way worse than Chernobyl.

Erin Kelly
Erin Kelly is a freelance writer, artist and video editor that splits her time between the humid Midwest and the dusty corners of her mind.
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