On 26 April 1986, a safety test on reactor #4 at the Chernobyl Power Plant took place. A series of bad decisions made what should’ve been a standard safety procedure into the worst nuclear disaster of all time.
Thirty-four years later, the Chernobyl disaster continues to be a topic of great discussion. It has come to the forefront once more, thanks to the HBO series released in 2019 and the burgeoning tourism industry in the area.
Here are five interesting facts about Chernobyl
Fact #1 The New Safe Confinement (NSC) confines the old sarcophagus and remains of reactor #4
Today we know and understand how the Chernobyl disaster response was not as prompt as transparent as it should’ve been for a catastrophe of that magnitude. However, considerable efforts did take place, eventually to contain the disaster.
The Chernobyl Power Plant sarcophagus construction built shortly after the disaster, but by 1996 it had deteriorated to the point it became necessary to come up with a new solution.
The New Safe Confinement (NSC) encloses the old structure to confine the remains of nuclear reactor number 4. Construction began in 2010, and it was completed in July 2019.
Fact #2 The iconic amusement park in Pripyat never officially opened to the public
The abandoned amusement park has become an iconic sight of Pripyat in the aftermath of the Chernobyl disaster. The park would’ve been known as Park of Culture and Rest had it ever opened to the public.
The amusement park had five attractions. The famous Ferris wheel was one, as well as bumper cars, shooting arcade, a paratrooper ride and swing boats.
The scheduled opening day was 1 May 1986, six days after the Chernobyl disaster. It was part of more extensive celebrations for International Worker’s Day. Some sources claim the park opened on the 27th as a way to distract residents from unfolding events.
Fact #3 You can expose yourself to more radiation in a 1-hour flight than most parts of the Exclusion Zone
Let’s be clear. There unsafe levels of radiation in many parts of the Chernobyl Exclusion zone, which is why it’s still not allowed to live within the 30 km radius. The effects of radiation leakage after the disaster will continue to affect the area for thousands of years.
It is, however, safe to visit the Exclusion Zone, provided you follow safety instructions of reputable tour operators and regulations set in place by the relevant local authorities.
Radiation is a measure in exposure to micro-sieverts (µSv) per hour, so you have to be exposed to a high dose for a longer time before it becomes harmful. You can expose yourself to more radiation in a 1-hour flight than in most parts of the Exclusions Zone.
Fact #4 Chernobyl images with decaying leftover personal belonging are mostly staged
The ruins of an old home. A decaying bed with a lonely, dirty rag doll at the bottom it. A gas mask laying on a side table nearby. These types of photos you can often find online when you search for Chernobyl.
The once-thriving towns in the Exclusion Zone are now utterly desolate places. However, it is highly unlikely you could find any such scenes when visiting the area.
In the aftermath of the disaster, Chernobyl liquidators took on various cleanup tasks not only in and around the plant itself but within the towns, disposing of most content inside apartment buildings and homes. The images only are often staged by photographers or tour operators, just for show.
Fact #5 The Exclusion Zone is proof that even in the harshest conditions, nature always finds a way
The Red Forest in Pripyat is one of the biggest hotspots in the entire Exclusion Zone. Due to the direction of the winds back in 1986, it took a lot of the radioactivity. On our last year’s trip, we passed through the forest quickly. One reason was the radiation, the other, the newest forest residents.
Grey wolves, in particular, have thrived in the area. Przewalski’s horses (also known as Mongolian wild horses) are also doing quite well. They were released in the area as part of conservation efforts for the once-endangered species.
The effects of radiation on the local flora and fauna are still under study. There’s evidence of DNA damage to some species of birds, for example. Yet, animals and nature overall, have found a way to overcome these adverse conditions.