Will the world’s largest atomic fallout exclusion zone one day host the world’s largest solar farm?
The infamous nuclear disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, near Pripyat in Soviet Ukraine, occurred 30 years ago. A fire and series of explosions in one of the plant’s reactors caused the largescale release of radiation across parts of Belarus, Ukraine, Russia, and other parts of Europe.
Despite extensive containment and decontamination efforts, lingering radiation in the area immediately surrounding the site of the meltdown has rendered the land uninhabitable for humans, likely for centurties. Other uses of the land, such as forestry or farming, have also been deemed too risky. As a result, a large swathe of once-viable land in northern Ukraine sits unused.
It’s not that the area is completely devoid of life. The land hosts a handful of residents who returned after the evacuation and refuse to leave; increasing populations of wild animals that have begun to repopulate the area; a large work force whose individuals ensure the ongoing containment of the plant’s aging reactors for short, infrequent periods of time; and participants in a growing “dark tourism” business that shuttles in tourists seeking a quick peak at the eerie post-disaster environs. But officials and investors are now hoping to put the land back into largescale productive use by building a solar farm.
The move would not only reclaim productive use of what is otherwise largely a dead zone, but would also help ease some of Ukraine’s current energy woes, as it remains partially reliant upon natural gas imports from Russia. It would also be a large investment in renewable energy, helping to reduce Ukraine’s carbon footprint. The project, should it ultimately take off, demonstrates an interesting and innovative approach towards recovering heavily contaminated land—a legacy with which jurisdictions around the world are dealing at some level—that also promotes green energy production.