The day was Saturday. The date was April 26. The year was 1986.
A baby born on the day Chernobyl blew up would be 30 today.
The catastrophic nuclear accident at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Pripyat, Ukraine, released radioactive particles into the air which spread over Russia and much of Europe. It was the worst nuclear power plant accident in history in terms of casualties: 31 people died, there were countless others who became extremely ill, and symptoms of cancer are still surfacing in survivors.
Nowadays, scientists are building a large arch to enclose the aging structure that houses the remainder of the nucelar waste at the site. Planners are afraid the older structure, pictured above, will fall down, and release more radioactivity into the atmosphere.
Some say the arch is a sign of progress, a sign that the last of the Chernobyl cleanup has begun.
At the time of the disaster, Pripyat was part of the Soviet Republic. Immediately following the incident, many of the 45,000 people living in Pripyat knew very little. In fact, it wasn’t until the next morning that evacuations began. People were told they’d be gone a few days. In the days afterward, Russia’s leaders sent in half a million workers to spell one another off. They made shelters, assisted in evacuations, and when their exposure to the radiation reached a certain level, they were replaced with a new lot of workers. It took months for that initial cleanup. Eventually, a 1000-square-mile boundary was set up around the accident site. It’s still in place today. Soon, the centre of it will be marked by the new “arch of progress,” the sign that Chernobyl is being cleaned up.
The thing is, atomic power is gaining popularity. Some nations argue it is one way to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and fight climate change.
Let’s not forget, atomic power carries enormous risk. Atomic power can go wrong, and when it goes wrong, the effects can be catastrophic. Perhaps those who see the Chernobyl “arch” as a sign of “progress” are misguided: perhaps the arch would better be seen as a memorial to an age of experimentation that went horribly wrong.