The Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant (ChNPP) site is located next to the now abandoned town of Pripyat in the former Soviet Union. April 23, 1986 started out normally, but at 01:23 a reactor test failed causing a massive explosion that destroyed reactor unit 4 and the surrounding building (I’m no scientist, but radioactivity without containment usually means bad things).
You can’t see or smell radiation; It is invisible and deadly. In the days/weeks after the explosion, heroic efforts were performed by hundreds of thousands of civil and military personnel called “liquidators” who worked to extinguish the fires, remove radioactive debris and begin the process to seal the building and exposed core.
Containment efforts were made with the most “advanced” engineering solutions and technology available at the time (basically, that means shit wasn’t built well). They made a shell around unit 4 called “the sarcophagus” that everyone hoped would last long enough to build a more permanent, long term confinement structure.
Construction began in 2010 on the “new safe confinement structure” (I guess marketing wasn’t involved with the brandname of this). It was engineered with 5 primary goals in-mind:
- Convert the destroyed ChNPP Unit 4 into an environmentally safe system.
- Reduce corrosion and weathering of the existing shelter and the Unit 4 reactor building.
- Mitigate the consequences of a potential collapse of either the existing shelter or the Unit 4 reactor building, particularly in terms of containing the radioactive dust that would be produced by such a collapse.
- Enable safe demolition of unstable structures (such as the roof of the existing shelter) by providing remotely operated equipment for their demolition.
- Qualify as a Nuclear entombment device.
Construction finished in 2017 and was a pretty neat to see up close without glowing.
Know before you go
- ChNPP is in the exclusion zone and can only be toured with approval.
- Yes, there are animals there.
- Yes, the animals are radioactive.
- No, you can’t pet the animals.
- They are particularly sensitive to photography from certain angles showing specific places (found this out the hard way).
Through the lens