Solar Park for Chernobyl

July 20, 2017

Last week, Ukraine’s minister of ecology, Ostap Semerak, announced that his country is talking to a multinational energy company about constructing a giant solar park inside the contaminated uninhabited Exclusion Zone around the ill-fated Chernobyl nuclear reactor. Of all man-made environmental catastrophes in human history, Chernobyl is considered to have caused the most lasting impact.

Since my first visit in 1993, I have been documenting the aftermath of the accident in dramatic photographs – the failed reactor, the contamination to the land, and the countless victims in the fallout regions, leading to my book and iPad app ‘The Long Shadow of Chernobyl’. Ignoring radiation levels, a few hundred elderly people have returned to their homes. At first Ukrainian officials discouraged them, but they soon turned a blind eye and are even providing them with regular medical check-ups.

A massive cyber attack that has brought several businesses to a close in Ukraine, Russia, and other countries throughout Europe, has also affected operations at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant the New York Times, Reuters and Verge reported. The state agency that oversees the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone announced in a statement “Due to the temporary disconnection of Windows systems, radiation monitoring of the industrial site is being carried out manually.”

In 1986, the world worst nuclear accident to date caused an explosion and a fire that burned for 10 days. The radioactive fallout spread over tens of thousands of square kilometers and drove more than a quarter of a million people permanently from their homes. Reputable environmental organizations estimate that more than 100 000 people have already died as a result of the accident.

31 years ago on April 26, 1986 at 1:23 am, the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant blew up after operators botched a safety test, triggering an explosion and a fire that burned for 10 days.

Recently, several European media outlets reported that one third of all wild boars hunted in countries in the path of the nuclear fallout (such as the Czech Republic and Germany) still contain such high levels of radiation (Cesium-137) that their meat is not save for consumption. Read more here

During my first visit to the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, in the early 1990’s, I photographed scientists from the Department of Ecological Botany at the Swedish University in Uppsala as they worked on a study of tissue radioactivity in animals in the Chernobyl Zone. Their research concentrated on the area’s wild boar and roe deer. After the animals’ dissection, then performed in a makeshift lab in a former kindergarten kitchen, their stomach contents were analyzed (photograph above).

Fukushima Anniversary

March 10, 2017

The British news publication ‘The Independent’ recently reported that the robots sent into Fukushima for cleanup are “dying” at a rate five times higher than expected. Although designed to survive in highly contaminated areas, large amounts of radioactive material are eating away at the robots wiring – rendering them useless. Read the full article here.

Six years ago, on March 11, 2011, Japan was hit by one of the most severe earthquakes in recorded history. In the subsequent tsunami, the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant suffered serious damage that led to several meltdowns in the nuclear reactor releasing large amounts of radioactive materials. It was the largest nuclear accident since Chernobyl.

“The news of the robots’ malfunction reminded me of the several times I went into the ill-fated Chernobyl reactor – deeper than any Western still photographer. I had described the harrowing experience in a Proof post on National Geographic a couple of years ago,” says Gerd Ludwig.

See the full Proof post here.

His 20 years covering the aftermath of the Chernobyl catastrophe resulted in the book and iPad App “The Long Shadow of Chernobyl”. The app is available from the iTunes store, see it here.

To order a signed copy of his award-winning book, “The Long Shadow of Chernobyl,” click here.

You can also follow Gerd on IG @gerdludwig, where he quite frequently publishes images from his forays into Chernobyl.

More than 30 years after Chernobyl reactor #4 blew up, causing the world’s worst nuclear disaster to date, the failed power plant is quickly disappearing from sight. A few days ago, workers began moving a new giant shield to cover reactor #4 along with the so-called sarcophagus, a hastily erected steel and concrete structure that was meant to seal in the smoldering radioactive remnants but is now structurally unsound and leaky. Chernobyl’s new shield, named the New Safe Confinement (NSC), is the largest moveable land-based structure ever built.

Spanning 257 meters, the arch-shaped NSC measures 108 meters high and 162 meters long and is strong enough to withstand a tornado. A sophisticated ventilation system was designed to eliminate the risk of corrosion, ensuring that there will be no need to replace the coating and expose workers to radiation during the structure’s lifetime (an estimated 100 years). The final construction cost amounts to 1.6 billion USD, paid for by more than 40 donor countries.

The NSC is currently being slid into its final “resting place” over the leaky sarcophagus. Moving the 36,000-ton structure is accomplished with the help of a special skidding system, consisting of 224 hydraulic jacks that push the arch 60 centimeters each stroke. It is anticipated that the total skid time will be around 40 hours of operation, spread over a period of several days. My photograph shows the arch in the mid-phase of construction.

You can learn more about the Chernobyl catastrophe from my book and iPad app, which resulted from decades of covering the aftermath of the disaster: “The Long Shadow of Chernobyl,” available here.

For more information: Time MagazineBBC NewsEuropean Bank for Reconstruction and Development

Germany’s Süddeutsche Zeitung published a comprehensive interview with Gerd Ludwig about his work documenting the aftermath of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.