We have no right to forget: 33rd anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster

02 May 2019

Ukraine and the world mark the 33rd anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster, the biggest one in the history of nuclear energy.

The consequences of it are still impossible to evaluate – but we do know that a huge radioactive cloud gradually reached almost every corner of Earth.

A unit of the power plant exploded in the early hours of April 26, 1986. The resulting fire burned for nine days. The disaster was a global tragedy.

Over half a million people took part in clean-up and restoration work. Oleksiy Breus, was among them; initially, he was an operator of the 4th block control panel, on duty on the day of the disaster.  He joined the forces of the first responders.

“Chernobyl is a great lesson,” he says. “We learned a lot technologically, learned how to overcome the aftermaths of the tragedy.”

“Many think Chernobyl may be a museum. Tourism here is not entertainment. Even when some people come here for entertainment, they return in a totally different mood. Visiting the exclusion zone gives a feeling that you became a participant of this event of the Biblical scale.”

Today, 30 kilometre area around Chernobyl nuclear power plant remains an exclusion zone. In Pripyat, now a ghost town, the deserted buildings decay slowly after people evacuated. Trees grow on its boulevards.

About 70 thousand tourists visited Chernobyl the previous year, most of them were foreign.

The fact people can stand safely near the 4th reactor speaks for itself. The radiation is thousands of times lower now than 33 years ago after the disaster. The newly installed shield over the 4th reactor helps to reduce the radiation. Before that, the reactor had been covered with an older casing, which had been installed shortly after the tragedy. It served for almost 30 years and needed to be changed.

The city of Slavutych in northern Ukraine is also commemorating the 33rd anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

Slavutych was purpose-built as a replacement for the plant town of Pripyat, which lay 1.5 km from the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. The town of Pripyat was home for the plant workers and their families, until it was abandoned after the disaster; and its residents evacuated, never to return.

About 50,000 Pripyat residents resettled in Slavutych. They were joined by those who arrived to work at the plant, which remained operational until December 2000.

Alyona Sheyderova, a former Chernobyl plant worker says, “So many years have passed, but we still remember. You know, many people can’t come here because they lived through it. My friends are from Pripyat. They’ve lived through it all. Explosion, evacuation, scattered families. They can’t come here yet. Those events are still alive in their memory”

“So the only thing I can do, the only thing we, people can do is to remember. To come here, to stay silent for a minute. To remember those people and thank them.”

The final death toll of Chernobyl is subject to speculation as the effects of radiation have long-term nature. But generally it ranges from 9,000 people according to estimates of the World Health Organisation to 90,000 according to the environmental campaign group Greenpeace.

Student Anastasia Murdinskaya says, “The world gradually forgets the Chernobyl disaster. On the one hand it’s good, because it’s a tragedy and it shouldn’t leave scars on souls. But on the other hand it’s bad. People should know and remember their history.”

We have no right to forget Chernobyl, Fukushima and other human tragedies. Let our conscience and memory be our teacher and guide!

 

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