Still Cleaning Up: 30 Years After the Chernobyl Disaster

This month marks the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. On April 26, 1986, technicians conducting a test inadvertently caused reactor number four to explode. Several hundred staff and firefighters then tackled a blaze that burned for 10 days and sent a plume of radiation around the world in the worst-ever civil nuclear disaster. More than 50 reactor and emergency workers were killed at the time. Authorities evacuated 120,000 people from the area, including 43,000 from the city of Pripyat. Reuters reports that a huge recently-completed enclosure called the New Safe Confinement—the world’s largest land-based moving structure—will be “pulled slowly over the site later this year to create a steel-clad casement to block radiation and allow the remains of the reactor to be dismantled safely.” Gathered below are recent images of the ongoing cleanup work and the ghost towns being reclaimed by nature within the 1,000-square-mile (2,600-square-kilometers) exclusion zone in Ukraine.

APTOPIX Ukraine Chernobyl
A gigantic steel arch under construction to cover the remnants of the exploded reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, in Chernobyl, Ukraine, on Sunday, Aug. 25, 2013, the scene of the world’s worst nuclear accident. The No. 4 reactor at Chernobyl nuclear power plant was the scene of a major explosion in 1986, resulting in the evacuation of the nearby town and the ongoing legacy of protecting against any possible radiation leaks. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

This month marks the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. On April 26, 1986, technicians conducting a test inadvertently caused reactor number four to explode. Several hundred staff and firefighters then tackled a blaze that burned for 10 days and sent a plume of radiation around the world in the worst-ever civil nuclear disaster. More than 50 reactor and emergency workers were killed at the time. Authorities evacuated 120,000 people from the area, including 43,000 from the city of Pripyat. Reuters reports that a huge recently-completed enclosure called the New Safe Confinement—the world’s largest land-based moving structure—will be “pulled slowly over the site later this year to create a steel-clad casement to block radiation and allow the remains of the reactor to be dismantled safely.” Gathered below are recent images of the ongoing cleanup work and the ghost towns being reclaimed by nature within the 1,000-square-mile (2,600-square-kilometers) exclusion zone in Ukraine.

 

Chernobyl, Nearly 30 Years Since Catastrophe
PRIPYAT, UKRAINE – SEPTEMBER 29: An assistant holds up a photo showing the city of Pripyat’s main square and the “Energetik” cultural center before 1986 at the same site that today is abandoned and overgrown with trees on September 29, 2015 in Pripyat, Ukraine. Pripyat lies only a few kilometers from the former Chernobyl nuclear power plant and was built in the 1970s to house the plant’s workers and their families. On April 26, 1986, technicians at Chernobyl conducting a test inadvertently caused reactor number four to explode, sending plumes of highly radioactive particles and debris into the atmosphere. Authorities evacuated 120,000 people from the area, including 43,000 from Pripyat. Today Pripyat is a ghost-town, its apartment buildings, shops, restaurants, hospital, schools, cultural center and sports facilities derelict and its streets overgrown with trees. The city lies in the inner exclusion zone around Chernobyl where hot spots of persistently high levels of radiation make the area uninhabitable for thousands of years to come. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
An employee is seen at a plant for processing liquid radioactive waste at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant
An employee is seen at a plant for processing liquid radioactive waste at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine March 23, 2016. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich – RTSBZFW
Containers are seen at a plant for processing liquid radioactive waste at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant
Containers are seen at a plant for processing liquid radioactive waste at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine March 23, 2016. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich – RTSBZ83
Worker is seen near dry spent nuclear fuel storage which is under construction at site of Chernobyl nuclear power plant
A worker is seen near a dry spent nuclear fuel storage (ISF-2), which is under construction, at the site of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, Ukraine, March 23, 2016. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich – RTSCN86
A man lights candles at a memorial, dedicated to firefighters and workers who died after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, during a night service near the Chernobyl plant in the city of Slavutych
A man lights candles at a memorial, dedicated to firefighters and workers who died after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, during a night service near the Chernobyl plant in the city of Slavutych, Ukraine, April 25, 2015. Belarus, Ukraine and Russia marked the 29th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster, the world’s worst civil nuclear accident. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY – RTX1AA6F
Chernobyl, Nearly 30 Years Since Catastrophe
CHORNOBYL, UKRAINE – SEPTEMBER 30: An abandoned Soviet Cold War-era radar system known as “The Woodpecker” used to detect incoming missiles and that measures 140 meters tall stands inside the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone on September 30, 2015 near Chornobyl, Ukraine. The Chernobyl Exclusion Zone is a 2,600 square kilometer restricted access zone established in the contaminated area around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. On April 26, 1986, technicians at Chernobyl conducting a test inadvertently caused reactor number four to explode, creating the worst nuclear accident in history. Authorities evacuated 120,000 people from surrounding towns and villages. While workers employed at the Chernobyl site today and a small number of returnees live in the outer zone, no one is allowed to live in the inner zone, where hot spots of radiation make the area uninhabitable for thousands of years to come. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
Ukraine Chernobyl
In this photo made in April 2012, a wolf in a wild wood in Ukraine’s Chernobyl, where nearly 30-years after a nuclear reactor caught fire and spewed a lethal cloud of radiation, some species of mammals are found to be thriving without the effect of human contact in the area. According to a new study published in the journal Current Biology, led by environmental scientist Jim Smith at Britain’s University of Portsmouth, the nature reserve zone extending north from Chernobyl power plant into Belarus, found that elk, deer, wild boar and wolves are now abundant in the Polesie reserve which was established after the 1986 disaster, where some 20,000 people once lived. (AP Photo/Sergiy Gaschak)
Chernobyl, Nearly 30 Years Since Catastrophe
PARUSHEV, UKRAINE – SEPTEMBER 30: Ivan Semenyuk, 80, and his wife Marya Kindrativna stand outside their house located inside the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone on September 30, 2015 in Parushev, Ukraine. Parushev, a village that before 1986 had a population of about 600, lies 13km from the former Chernobyl nuclear power plant, where in 1986 workers inadvertantly caused reactor number four to explode, creating the worst nuclear accident in history. Authorities evacuated 120,000 people, including the residents of Parushev. Semenyuk and Kindrativna, along with a few other elderly residents, were allowed to return a year later and have lived there ever since. While radiation levels in Parushev are negligible, the village lies in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone that covers 2,600 square kilometers and where only a few elderly people have dared to return. Semenyuk grows corn, beets, potatoes, cucumbers, tomatoes and pumpkins, forages for mushrooms in nearby forests and has a stall with 13 chickens. A bus selling provisions still comes by around once a month, though visits by a medical team to Parushev have ceased. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
Chernobyl
An abandoned hall of a building in Pripyat, Ukraine, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2011.Pripyat was built for workers at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, but the city that once was home to 49,000 was abandoned soon after a plant reactor exploded on Aril 26, 1986. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
Chernobyl, Nearly 30 Years Since Catastrophe
PRIPYAT, UKRAINE – SEPTEMBER 30: In this aerial view a Soviet-era hammer and sickle are adorned with a Ukrainian flag on top of an abandoned apartment building on September 30, 2015 in Pripyat, Ukraine. Pripyat lies only a few kilometers from the former Chernobyl nuclear power plant and was built in the 1970s to house the plant’s workers and their families. On April 26, 1986, technicians at Chernobyl conducting a test inadvertently caused reactor number four to explode, sending plumes of highly radioactive particles and debris into the atmosphere. Authorities evacuated 120,000 people from the area, including 43,000 from Pripyat. Today Pripyat is a ghost-town, its apartment buildings, shops, restaurants, hospital, schools, cultural center and sports facilities derelict and its streets overgrown with trees. The city lies in the inner exclusion zone around Chernobyl where hot spots of persistently high levels of radiation make the area uninhabitable for thousands of years to come. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
Chernobyl, Nearly 30 Years Since Catastrophe
CHORNOBYL, UKRAINE – SEPTEMBER 29: A book of Ukrainian literature lies among books, clothes and other items strewn on the floor in an abandoned music school of Zalisya village located inside the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone on September 29, 2015 near Chornobyl, Ukraine. Zalisya, a village that before 1986 had a population of approximately 3,000, lies about 15 kilometers south of the former Chernobyl nuclear power plant, where in 1986 workers inadvertantly caused reactor number four to explode, creating the worst nuclear accident in history. Authorities evacuated 120,000 people, incuding the residents of Zalisya and 85 other villages, as well as of the towns of Chornobyl and Pripyat. Today the Zalisya site stands abandoned and overgrown with trees and vegetation. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
A view of the abandoned city of Pripyat near the Chernobyl nuclear power plant
A view of the abandoned city of Pripyat is seen near the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine March 23, 2016. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich – RTSBZGE
Chernobyl, Nearly 30 Years Since Catastrophe
PRIPYAT, UKRAINE – SEPTEMBER 30: In this aerial view an abandoned ferris wheel stands on a public space overgrown with trees in the former city center on September 30, 2015 in Pripyat, Ukraine. Pripyat lies only a few kilometers from the former Chernobyl nuclear power plant and was built in the 1970s to house the plant’s workers and their families. On April 26, 1986, technicians at Chernobyl conducting a test inadvertently caused reactor number four to explode, sending plumes of highly radioactive particles and debris into the atmosphere. Authorities evacuated 120,000 people from the area, including 43,000 from Pripyat. Today Pripyat is a ghost-town, its apartment buildings, shops, restaurants, hospital, schools, cultural center and sports facilities derelict and its streets overgrown with trees. The city lies in the inner exclusion zone around Chernobyl where hot spots of persistently high levels of radiation make the area uninhabitable for thousands of years to come. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

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