When the accident happened at Chernobyl’s #4 reactor in April 1986, it changed how people viewed nuclear power forever. Of course, there had already been the accident at the Three Mile Island power plant in the United States. But that was not the same as the meltdown that created a 4,000 square mile exclusion zone across the borders of what are now Belarus and Ukraine. The meltdown has become such a trope in popular culture that there is now even a horror movie about what has happened there in the aftermath.
In reality, however, both human and animal life have done much better than expected. Victoria Gill has an excellent article on this topic in the BBC News titled, Chernobyl: The end of a three-decade experiment. As you can read yourselves, not only do herds of endangered wild horses -and packs of wolves- roam the exclusion zone, some humans have remained. And scientists are now discussing reducing the size of this exclusion zone. Indeed, Gill’s piece suggests that for many people today fear of radiation might prove to be more of a danger than the radiation itself. There is hope. Of course, not of this takes away from the fact that Chernobyl was a human and economic catastrophe on a staggering scale. Meanwhile, in Japan a robot has reached the core of one of the damaged reactors, but that cleanup will also take decades, and perhaps be even more complex.
The BBC piece is an interesting work, but it lacked the voices of local environmentalists and anti-nuclear campaigners, who could have provided a different perspective. Still, the documentary is well-worth viewing.