In 1986 the Nuclear Power Plant at Chernobyl exploded during a test for which it was not prepared. Following the explosion, high levels of radiation could be measured in the surrounding area. The nearby town of Pripyat was evacuated, and the disaster has become historic as the worst of its kind.
The typical image of Chernobyl is perpetrated by movies, TV, and even video games. It portrays the area as a wasteland, a zone inhospitable to human life. However, the dramatizations aren’t always completely correct. Here are 6 interesting things about Chernobyl.
1. You Can Go There
Chernobyl is imagined as inaccessible and usually deadly in most portrayals. However, there is a thriving tourism industry focused specifically on the region. Today you can go to Kiev, Ukraine, and hop on a tourist bus that will take you past the border guards, into Pripyat, and all the way up to the Reactor #4 itself. This is because….
2. Much of the Zone Isn’t Highly Radioactive
While there are spots within the Exclusion Zone with dangerous levels of radiation, the zone as a whole does not have a uniform pattern of radiation. Instead, radioactivity varies and is higher and lower depending on where you are. The Soviet Army, now Ukrainian Army, regularly updated maps showing the levels of radiation around the zone. Over time, much of the area has become very safe; the most dangerous part of the trip is actually the decrepit buildings which occasionally fall apart.
3. People Are Working There
It may seem obvious to think that since there is a tourism industry, then there must be tour guides and bus drivers in the area. There are also the famous stories of Ukrainian people who went back into the zone to live after having been evacuated years prior. In addition to these, there is the Ukrainian Military who stations people in the zone as well as construction workers who are trying to build a permanent solution to the still-leaking reactor.
4. The Reactor is Still Leaking Radiation
The containment plan for the initial disaster was known as the Sarcophagus. A huge concrete structure, it was meant to cover and contain Reactor #4 once the threat of an even worse disaster had been averted. Today, it is more than 30 years old and is leaking radiation. The new permanent fix sits within 100m of the reactor in the shape of a massive dome which will be wheeled over the reactor and will hopefully secure it.
5. There Was Almost a 2nd, Worse Explosion
When the reactor melted down, the core melted into a highly-dense, high-temperature, radioactive lava. This melted through the floor and into the basement of the reactor. Underneath the reactor ran water used to cool the facility. If the high-temperature lava had reached the lower-temperature water, the resulting explosion would have released energy that may have dwarfed the initial explosion. Fortunately, the Soviet Military dropped sand down the reactor via helicopter to slow and cool the molten core.
6. There Are Giant Catfish in the Cooling Pond
The official story is that because nobody is allowed to fish in the cooling pond, the catfish have grown to enormous size. We’ll see…… we’ll see…..