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20 Haunting Images From Chernobyl 33 Years Later

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On April 25, 1986, the world stood still. A reactor at a nuclear power plant exploded and burned, leading to massive evacuation around Chernobyl, and colossal long-term impacts. Furthermore, the area around Chernobyl will remain inhabitable for the next thousands of years.

This nuclear accident shocked the world, left the broken area, and many questions unanswered. More than 30 years on, it’s possible to visit Chernobyl on a guided tour. Officials are claiming it is safe. However, if you prefer not to have that claim tested, check these 20 photos of how Chernobyl looks today.

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1. The Beginning

Routine testing of April 25, 1986, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, went horribly wrong. This accident lead to almost the worst case scenario ever seen in Europe after Black Death.

Flickr: @Paul Thompson

A fatal failure of the No. 4 nuclear reactor resulted in a massive explosion, that lead to a gigantic release of radioactive fission products into the air.

2. Pripyat, Ukraine

Pripyat was the closest town to Chernobyl. Around 36 hours after the accident, Pripyat was evacuated. At the time of the accident, the city had approximately 50,000 inhabitants.

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Flickr: @Dmytro Syvyi

Within the first hour of accident 28 people had died. Furthermore, after 35 hours after the accident 50,000 lost their homes forever. And it was just the beginning.

3. Evacuation Was Massive

The explosion lead to 30 percent of Chernobyl’s 190 metric tons of uranium in the air. Soon enough they realize that evacuation will need to be broader than just Pripyat.

Flickr: @Dmytro Syvyi

The Soviet Union eventually evacuated 335,000 people. Altogether, the exclusion zone was 19 miles wide spreading around the reactor.

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4. Historic Disaster

Sweden was the first one to start asking questions. Officials in Sweden recorded significant radiation in the air. Naturally, they started questioning what’s happening in the USSR.

Flickr: @Dmytro Syvyi

Announcing a nuclear accident was a great political risk, so the Soviets denied the accident. However, the consequences were felt so fast that Ukraine had to make a brief announcement on April 28.

5. Second Explosion

When one of four reactors exploded, radioactive fallout was massive and leading to a possible second explosion. The second explosion would spread fallout across half of Europe.

Three men volunteered to prevent the second explosion. They were later on known as the ‘suicide squad.’ They died weeks after this heroic act from radiation.

6. Effects Of Radiation

Dying of radiation started soon after the explosion. Furthermore, it is believed that more than 6,000 children and youth developed thyroid cancer.

Flickr: @Dmytro Syvyi

Around 4,000 people were exposed to high levels of radiation, while others were exposed to lower levels of radiation. Impacts on mental health and subsequent generations remain unknown.

7. Animals Had To Be Killed

Animals were hunted down by the Soviets all over the infected area. It was done in order to prevent the spread of radiation.

However, wildlife has returned. Foxes, dogs, and many wolves are seen roaming around Chernobyl nowadays.

8. The Babushkas of Chernobyl

Humans aren’t allowed to live inside the exclusion zone. However, 1,000 returned to their homes just a few months after the accident occurred. They are mostly elderly women.

This group of woman is called ‘Babushkas of Chernobyl’. They are known as vanishing people as well. Surprisingly, they are dying from old age and not from toxic surroundings.

9. Chernobyl’s ‘Stalkers’

Although the exclusion zone is heavily-controlled ‘stalkers’ manage to enter this area. ‘Stalkers’ are young people who explore abandoned buildings of Chernobyl.

Flickr: @Dmytro Syvyi

These stalkers enter the building and they just move objects, mostly dolls, in order for Chernobyl photos go viral.

10. Black Birds

When it comes to consequences of radiation to animals of Chernobyl, the bird population took the hardest hit. Females died in bigger numbers than males.

Flickr: @Rob Crawford

Birds in Chernobyl area now have smaller brain volume, larger body masses, and different coloration. Most of the birds are now black.

11. Nature Is Thriving

The exclusion zone is 1,000 square miles long and nowadays it serves as a unique nature reserve. Interestingly, this wasn’s ever planned.

Flickr: @Glasgow

Some claim that wildlife benefits from radiation. Luckily, scientists explained that animals are thriving because there are no humans hunting them.

12.Chernobyl Reactor Today

Cleanup was expensive both in human toll and cost. Today, the reactor is in a sarcophagus to contain the radioactive material inside.

But, the sarcophagus is designed to last for only for 30 years. The ides is to improve sarcophagus each year.

13. Chernobyl Costs Money

The cost of Chernobyl is still on. The chances are that its consequences will be carried by generations. In Ukraine and broader.

For example, Chernobyl disaster costs Belarus 20 percent of its annual national budget. For years to come to its significant amount.

14. Chernobyl Elephant

There is an elephant in the reactor. Explosion formed a molten mass of radioactive fuels, named the ‘elephant foot.’ It burned down, all the way to the reactor basement.

Flickr: @Wendelin Jacober

Elephant foot is controlled by the sarcophagus. 300 seconds next to it would kill you. When the foot was new only 60 seconds next to it would kill you.

15. Reactor Is Safe

Interestingly, the radiation levels near the reactor and significantly less than in other areas of the exclusion zone.

Flickr: @Dmytro Syvyi

Current radiation levels are 10 to 100 times higher than normal background radiation. Unusually, it is possible to get extremely close to the Chernobyl reactor nowadays.

16. David McMillan Of Chernobyl

David McMillan is a recognizes photographer who has made 21 trips to Chernobyl since 1994. Ever since he is responsible for documenting Chernobyl’s appearance.

Flickr: @Sefiery

His work is a great way to see nature reclaiming civilization in Chernobyl. Therefore, you will see the same place thriving in a difference of just a few years.

17. Chernobyl Lived Until 2000

There was another detonation since the massive one in 1986, that occur in 1991 when the turbine corridor reactor exploded. Luckily, there was no radioactive spillage.

Flickr: @Fenja V

Reactors were vital for Ukraine’s electricity needs. They continued to operate until Unit 2 was shut down in 1991, Unit 1 in 1996 and unit 3 in 2000.

18. The Cleanup Is Still On

First cleaning included dropping sand into the reactor sand. Other desperate measures included chopping and buried acres of forest, bulldozes nearby villages, and slaughtering abandoned animals.

Flickr: @keiththfc

New measures include dealing with the ‘elephant foot’. The Ukrainian government announced that the site will be completely clear until 2065. However, radioactive particles will remain for hundreds of generations to come.

19. You Can Visit Chernobyl

You can visit Chernobyl today from Kyiv. However, this applies only to the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. This area is safe for a visit, because radiation is small.

Dark tourism is on the rise and Chernobyl is the number one destination. It still remains one of the most interesting places to visit.

20. Chernobyl Is Healing

Although animals are back it doesn’t mean that its safe for humans. Pripyat will be fit for humans in 2,968 years.

All together, Chernobyl is healed for only one percent. Chernobyl still has a long way to go.

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