There wouldn’t be too many people of my generation who would hear the term “Chernobyl” and not immediately think “nuclear disaster”. The accident occurred on 26 April 1986 and an exclusion zone of 30km (around 20 miles) radius still exists today.
While wildlife is flourishing in the exclusion zone, it’s doing so in an area where radiation levels are anywhere from 10 to 100 times normal.
Around 180 tonnes of the fuel in the reactor at the time of the accident remains inside a protective concrete sarcophagus built after the accident; a structure that is degrading. Even with that fixed, it’s said that farming or any other type of agricultural industry within the exclusion zone would be dangerous for at least 200 years.
The Chernobyl disaster didn’t just affect the immediate area. Other countries that experienced significant increases in radiation levels included Russia, Ukraine, Serbia, Croatia, Greece, Romania, Finland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Austria, Hungary, The Netherlands, Belgium, Poland, Switzerland, Germany, Luxembourg, Italy, Ireland, France, the United Kingdom and over a dozen others.
Radiation levels were sufficiently elevated in some of those countries to see the banning of the sale or export of some products.
23 years on and nearly 370 farms in Britain are *still* restricted in the way they use land and raise sheep because of radioactive fallout according to this article on The Guardian.
That one power plant could have such a huge effect is frightening and while its said a Chernobyl could never happen again; didn’t they say the same sort of thing about World War 1, “the war to end all wars”? If there’s anything that humans are good at, its allowing history to repeat itself. A nuclear reactor in Japan had a close call just 2 years ago.
There’s really no need to wreck the environment to retrieve the ore for nuclear purposes, nor should we have to live with the fear of the threat of nuclear related “incidents”, be they civilian, military or terrorist. It’s not just the initial effects, but those that linger for years afterward. Incidents and accidents aside, there’s still the issue of nuclear waste and its effects on the environment. We can’t keep using the planet as a giant rug to sweep our crap under.
Even issues such as the huge volumes of water required to run a nuclear power generation station and the fact that stations need to be situated near waterways should give pause for thought before going all out towards a nuclear power future. A single reactor needs 35-65 million litres of water each day – that’s more than a coal fired station. Additionally, the waste heat, heavy metals and salts present in the water can negatively affect aquatic environments.
We already have a massive nuclear reactor on tap and at a much safer distance – it’s called the sun. Solar power and other forms of renewable energy are the only way to go. Unfortunately, these solutions allow for you and I to be involved; to create our own energy – and that’s something that business and governments simply do not want.