May 09, 2024

How War Has Affected Chernobyl Zone


How War Has Affected Chernobyl Zone
The entrance to the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant.  Clay Gilliland, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

The delicate ecosystem of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone has been been drastically harmed by Russian occupation. 

Much damage was done to the region in the first months of Russia's invasion, from February 24 to April 2, 2022, during Russia's offensive on Kyiv. Russian troops not only looted and destroyed parts of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant itself; their convoys likely tracked an unknown amount of radiation from the soil of the Exclusion Zone outside of the protected area. 

The occupation has had consequences for all aspects of life and work that were taking place within the Exclusion Zone: scientists can no longer safely access many areas of the Zone to collect data, and environmentalists, who have been working for decades to restore the nature of the area, report a substantial increase in pollution and deforestation where the Russian convoys were located. The Zone also used to host a bustling tourism industry, with 250,000 visitors in the five years before the war. Now much of the infrastructure for tourist centers has been destroyed. 

“The Russians plundered all the checkpoints, as well as the monitoring centers of the Exclusion Zone, laboratories, and everywhere else where there was some kind of equipment,” said Vladimir Verbitsky, a Zone engineer, in an interview with BBC Ukraine. Witnesses reported seeing Russian military personnel looting even in the most radioactive parts of the Zone. 

While this damage has set back the process of restoring the Zone to its state before the nuclear disaster in 1985, the population of the area remains dedicated to the idea of turning the Exclusion Zone into a "Renaissance Zone."

 

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