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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

25 years after Chernobyl

It was twenty-five years ago today, on the morning of April 26th 1986, that the Chernobyl disaster - the very worst nuclear accident in history - happened.

The Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, located at Pripyat in Ukraine, suffered a severe meltdown in Reactor No. 4 following an attempted experiment. The town of Pripyat was evacuated and thousands of firefighters and other workers died either during the immediate crisis or in the following weeks from radiation poisoning. The reactor ended up entombed within a "sarcophagus" and the entire area rendered a wasteland. It'll take several thousands of more years yet before human resettlement within what has come to be known as the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone will be possible again. The years since have seen some very tragic results, such as birth defects and an increase in cancer rates of those who were most in the path of the radioactive cloud (which wound up being detected all over the world).

One other effect of Chernobyl is that the disaster crippled the finances of what was then the Soviet Union. It is thought that the accident served to accelerate the collapse of that country's economy and led to the end of the Soviet government five years later.

Naturally, you can find out much more about the Chernobyl disaster on Wikipedia. But by far the most intriguing online resource about Chernobyl is the website of Elena Filatova, AKA "Kiddofspeed". A few years ago she rode her motorcycle through the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone and documented her travels, along with several photographs of what the area around Chernobyl looks like today. They might be some of the eeriest photographs you're apt to find on the Internet.