Considered to be one of, if not the worst nuclear disasters in history, the Chernobyl disaster took place on April 26, 1986, in Pripyat, Ukraine. The cause of the disaster was a safety test gone wrong at the nuclear plant. As a result, the land has been abandoned for over 30 years with the widespread of radioactive elements into surrounding towns and cities. As of 2021, Chernobyl is experiencing many environmental issues that can have a detrimental effect on society.
What is The Exclusion Zone?
The exclusion zone refers to the area extending up to 30 km in all directions around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant that was most contaminated by the accident.
Short and Long term environmental effects
As a direct effect of the disaster, it has caused contamination in urban and agricultural areas, forests, bodies of water, and radiation towards plants and animals. In urban areas, radioactive materials made their way to the nearby residences but thankfully they were evacuated and were able to avoid exposure. Other urban areas receive different levels of radiation and deposition. In terms of agriculture, plants and animals dissipated quickly because of weather and radioactivity. The problem persists in rural areas or what’s known as the former soviet union that consists of private farms. Bodies of water especially were contaminated with massive radioactive materials close to the site and throughout other parts of Europe. When it comes to animals and plants, many reports indicate genetic effects from radiation. Over the years, as the levels of radiation decrease, species begin to present themselves again.
Chernobyl Wildlife sanctuary
Due to the small amount, if any, of human life, the town has many stray dogs, wolves, and even foxes. The town is estimated to contain 250 dogs that live at the plant while also inhabiting rare and endangered species. Animals such as Przewalski’s horses, European lynx, and European brown bears can be found in the region. The rare species were rumored to be gone but have since returned to the exclusion zone. This is great, considering the European brown bears have not been spotted in that region for more than a century. Wonderlands for gray wolves among many other species can also be found in the exclusion zone. The irony of it all is that although the presence of humans is limited, animals seem to thrive.
What is Chernobyl like today?
The eerie and what used to be a desolate location is still monitored daily due to the high exposure to radiation. It is open for tourists but only the exclusion zone that covers everything within a 30-kilometer radius, or roughly 1000 square miles of the site. Tours are considered being safe because people are exposed to a very limited amount of radiation. Surprisingly enough, cause for concern also derives from the winter months. The once populated city now contains roughly 20,000 residents that live in the town of Slavutych, which also contains family and former workers from the nuclear power plant. The site is also known to trespassers known as stalkers which derive from the science fictional novel Roadside Picnic and is considered to have deep resonance.
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Source(s): Chernobyl: 3. How has the environment been affected by the Chernobyl accident? (n.d.). Greenfacts.Org. https://www.greenfacts.org/en/chernobyl/l-2/3-chernobyl-environment.htm
Chernobyl Worker Healthcare. (2017, February 23). Clean Futures Fund. https://cleanfutures.org/projects/chernobyl-worker-healthcare/
Please Wait. . . | Cloudflare. (2016, September 16). UNEP. https://www.unep.org/news-and-stories/story/how-chernobyl-has-become-unexpected-haven-wildlife