The Chernobyl nuclear disaster happened in April 1986 with reactor four of the Chernobyl power plant in Ukraine. I’ve now visited on three different occasions. On arrival to Chernobyl, you go through a few security checkpoints; it is a highly guarded area and you are only allowed into the exclusion zone with a guide. Driving around Chernobyl is surreal as there is still a big human presence, all busy working. During my first visits, they were creating the new sarcophagus, which is now complete and will contain the radiation for another number of years.
We drove down streets lined with trees that had all been affected by the radiation; their bark and lower foliage completely gone where the radiation had killed it. The Red Forest is known as one of the most highly radioactive places as most of the radiation now lies in the soil. Driving to Pripyat felt very surreal; a town with no one living, nature growing all over the buildings and claiming back the area. Streets that had once been busy, now empty and deteriorating. It’s very hard to put into words such an overwhelming experience as the one I’ve had in the zone; I’ve never had such a huge mixture of emotions.
It has opened my mind to the fragility of humanity and how the things humans create can cause so much damage to the world and the life that lives in it. The most amazing thing I have learnt is that nature will return and claim it all back, that humans may only exist for a small fraction of the Earth’s potential lifetime as a disaster caused by man or nature could easily wipe us out, and yet nature will still claim back the Earth.