Solar panels bring new life to Chernobyl disaster site

The Ukrainian government is seeking to bring new life to the abandoned plant. (/shutterstock)

Natalia Welzenbach-Marcu | January 16th, 2018

Sections of the long-abandoned site of the 1986 nuclear accident are being repurposed by the Ukrainian government for solar power.

Around 25 square kilometers have been opened up for solar projects and energy proposals, most taking place within the “sarcophagus”–a metal dome designed to seal leftover radiation leakage away from nearby residents. Solar panels are attached to concrete slabs placed over the toxic soil, facing skyward; once up and running, the panels are estimated to produce enough energy to consistently power a small village–around 2,000 homes.

Chernobyl’s nuclear plant stood near the small village of Pripyat, back when Ukraine was under control of the USSR. During a safety test, one of the reactors within the plant exploded from steam pressure, spewing toxic radiation into the air and killing approximately 32 people. The plant itself continued to run after the meltdown until its eventual shutdown in December of 2000, but the surrounding land has suffered the consequences of radiation fallout well after the initial disaster.

The earth surrounding the nuclear site is too poisoned and damaged to be farmed or inhabited, so the government sought another way to utilize this skeleton of a plant; a memorial to one of the country’s greatest environmental disasters.

Yevgen Varyagin, the current head of the Chernobyl Solar Project, is passionate about the potential the site has for producing clean energy: “It shouldn’t be a black hole in the middle of Ukraine.


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