On the 26th of April 1986, the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, and particularly Chernobyl, a city in the North of Ukraine, was the stage of one of the major nuclear catastrophes ever witnessed. Its nuclear plant, located 16 kilometers from the city, had one of its four reactors explode, and due to several malfunctions there was no way to contain the radioactive wave which came out of it.
Releasing hundreds of times more the amount of radionuclides that were dropped by the two nuclear bombs in 1945, millions of acres of land were contaminated and more than 300 000 people had to be evacuated.
Beyond these figures, this accident continued (and continues) to have extreme consequences for people, with thousands having been infected by the waste of Chernobyl, many having eventually died. Indeed, in high doses, radiation is lethal for living organisms, by changing cells and even DNA. Until today, an area of around 2 600 square kilometers is designated as the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, where access is highly restricted.
While some of us might imagine Chernobyl as a dark place full of weird, radioactive species, this region has developed a quite unique ecosystem. For years now, researchers have pursued field trips in Chernobyl, to explore the biological changes radioactivity has caused.
Though it has many abandoned infrastructures, the most affected area is full of a green and resilient vegetation, which turns it into a post-apocalyptical, yet, quite beautiful scenario.
Yes, biodiversity (from spiders to birds, to even trees) has been severely hit and has experienced mutations induced by radisation. It is undeniable that it has taken many years to be able to thrive again and big animals are seldom spotted in the region. Yet, hope is not lost. Chernobyl fortunately shows that despite what we, humans, might do to our environment, it will be always more resilient than us…
Nevertheless, Chernobyl remains a threat for human lives. While in 1986, a dome of concrete and steal was built around the exploded reactor to try to contain the contamination, this one is no longer safe. Hence, the Ukrainian authorities are now highly investing on a new structure that could definitely stop the spread of any other remnants of radiation. There are hopes that in a not-so-distant future, the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone will disappear, but we will have to wait and see. In the meantime, the efforts to clean the area continue.