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.

Fall 2015 Update

October 20, 2015

Gerd Ludwig’s Fall Update includes the latest news about The Long Shadow of Chernobyl, including a recent award, and other upcoming events and exhibitions.

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Belarusian author Svetlana Alexievich was announced as the 2015 Nobel Laureate in Literature today. Alexievich is known for her writings on Chernobyl specifically, and excerpts from her book Voices from Chernobyl were published in Gerd Ludwig’s The Long Shadow of Chernobyl. Her writings stem from hundreds of interviews, and the collection of oral history and recorded conversations are integral to her work.

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“Nuclear Tourism,” a selection of Gerd Ludwig’s photographs of tourism in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, will be exhibited at Visa Pour l’Image in Perpignan, August 29 – September 18, 2015.

In 2011, as people around the world watched TV reports on the nuclear meltdown in Fukushima, the Ukrainian government gave approval for travel inside the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, which has now become a disaster-tourism destination.

Tourists take pictures of the sarcophagus encasing the reactor, but the top attraction is the ghost town of Pripyat, once home to nearly 50,000, now decaying and overgrown by nature, a less than truthful witness to its sudden abandonment. Visitors and tour guides have set up tableaux to evoke scenes, with, for example, a doll arranged next to a gas mask.

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To see more images from the story:

“The Long Shadow of Chernobyl” iPad app:

“The Long Shadow of Chernobyl” iPad app was just re-released for iOS 8, with a new design and updated material. For those who already had the earlier version, a free update is available via the App Store.

Spanning Gerd Ludwig’s two decades of documentation of the aftermath of the Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe, the groundbreaking work explores the human and environmental impact since the disaster, including photos from Ludwig’s most recent trips to Chernobyl, taken in early 2011 as the crisis at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant was unfolding and in 2013, as the tourist industry expanded in the Exclusion Zone.

Purchase from the App Store here:

“The Long Shadow of Chernobyl” is a joint production of Gerd Ludwig Photography and Lightbox Press, now built on the ScrollMotion software platform.