+
upworthy
Heroes

30 years after nuclear catastrophe, Chernobyl has a new energy mission.

The Chernobyl meltdown on April 26, 1986, remains the most ruinous nuclear catastrophe in world history.

More than 30 people died in the immediate aftermath, and cleanup costs ran into the billions of dollars.

After the meltdown, the city and surrounding areas were evacuated, leaving 1,600 square miles of radioactive real estate rotting away in what was then the Soviet Union, now Ukraine.


The abandoned town of Pripyat and the Chernobyl power plant, through scaffolding holding a remnant of the Soviet Union hammer and sickle. Photo by Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images.

30 years later, we're still discovering the long-term effects of this devastating fallout.

The total body count is estimated to be in the tens of thousands now, although it's difficult to determine exactly how many cases of cancer and other health complications in the surrounding areas can be attributed directly to the toxic waste still lingering in the ground.

To this day, the area remains abandoned except for occasional workers still struggling to contain the wreck in its concrete sarcophagus. But even the milk produced at the farthest edges of the disaster zone still contains 10 times the acceptable radiation limit.

On the bright side — which, ya know, is a pretty low bar here — the general lack of human activity means that wildlife in the area is thriving. So that's nice.

Horses in Belarus near Chernobyl. Photo by Viktor Drachev/AFP/Getty Images.

What do you do with 1 million acres of uninhabitable nuclear wasteland? It's no good as farmland, and you can't build houses...

But you can harvest sunlight.

These are actually in South Burlington, Vermont. But you get the idea. Photo by Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images.

That's right: The Ukrainian government is turning Chernobyl into one of the world's largest solar farms.

"The Chernobyl site has really good potential for renewable energy," Ukrainian environment minister Ostap Semerak explained at a recent press conference in London. "We already have high-voltage transmission lines that were previously used for the nuclear stations, the land is very cheap, and we have many people trained to work at power plants."

As crazy as it might sound to build another power plant on the site of such a famously poisonous disaster, we can be fairly confident that sun fuel doesn't come with the same toxic risks.

Ostap Semerak (right) examines a hot cell on the construction site of a spent nuclear fuel storage facility next to the Chernobyl plant on the 30th anniversary of the disaster. Photo by Genya Savilov/AFP/Getty Images.

If this Chernobyl solar farm reaches fruition, it won't just energize the country. It'll dramatically transform it on a political level, too.

The estimated $1.1 billion project would produce 4 megawatts of energy, or enough to power up to 4,000 Ukrainian homes. "We want to be a successful Ukraine, to show people in the conflict zone that life is better and more comfortable with us," Semerak said at the press conference.

Clean, steady energy would obviously have a positive impact on the lives of those families. But it would also help the country wean off its reliance on neighboring Russia, which still provides Ukraine with much of its natural gas supply (except for when they don't, which is sometimes).

The relationship between Russia and Ukraine is complicated, to say the least. So in addition to the power-producing benefits of this potential new solar farm, energy independence offers an opportunity for the Ukraine to ally itself more closely with the European Union. As Semerak said, "We have normal European priorities, which means having the best standards with the environment and clean energy ambitions."

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko speaks at Chernobyl on the 30th anniversary of the disaster. Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images.

While Ukraine is still in the planning stages, this ambitious project represents a positive potential for a brighter, sun-fueled future.

There are still some hurdles to cross, of course. The big one right now is fundraising, which was the impetus behind Semerak's press conference in the first place. While solar power is undeniably more efficient and affordable, the up-front overhead costs run a little steep, even if they ultimately pay off.

There's also the fact that it'd be naive of Ukraine to enter into such a huge campaign without considering the full ramifications of nuclear fallout. Given the increased wildlife presence, it's entirely possible that the radioactivity has subsided enough that it would be safe to start a large-scale construction project — with proper precautions for the workers, just in case.

But this is definitely a situation where it's better to be safe than sorry.

Photo by Sergei Gapon/AFP/Getty Images.

Humans have done serious damage to the planet over the years. But if it does work out, the Chernobyl solar farm could be an inspiration for all of us.

This is not to the diminish the tragedy of April 26, 1986, of course.

But building a clean-energy plant on a radioactive graveyard is a strangely powerful reminder that our people and our planet can rebound from even the most terrible catastrophes.

All GIFs and images via Exposure Labs.


Photographer James Balog and his crew were hanging out near a glacier when their camera captured something extraordinary.

They were in Greenland, gathering footage from the time-lapse they'd positioned all around the Arctic Circle for the last several years.

Keep ReadingShow less

A woman working out at the gym wearing headphones.

In 2018, author James Clear released “Atomic Habits,” a book about making significant changes through building small habits. The book's takeaway is that you don’t have to commit to drastic, overnight changes to improve yourself. You can do so by slowly working your way towards a goal.

"All big things come from small beginnings,” Clear writes in the book. “The seed of every habit is a single, tiny decision. But as that decision is repeated, a habit sprouts and grows stronger. Roots entrench themselves and branches grow. The task of breaking a bad habit is like uprooting a powerful oak within us. And the task of building a good habit is like cultivating a delicate flower one day at a time."

TikTokker Ashie Adams has a similar theory she calls the Lazy Girl Fitness hack. She says people can create a regular fitness routine by breaking a trip to the gym down into 2 distinct events instead of one that feels overwhelming.

Keep ReadingShow less

Albert Einstein

One of the strangest things about being human is that people of lesser intelligence tend to overestimate how smart they are and people who are highly intelligent tend to underestimate how smart they are.

This is called the Dunning-Kruger effect and it’s proven every time you log onto Facebook and see someone from high school who thinks they know more about vaccines than a doctor.

The interesting thing is that even though people are poor judges of their own smarts, we’ve evolved to be pretty good at judging the intelligence of others.

Keep ReadingShow less
Photo by David Clode on Unsplash

Creator shares strange animal facts, weirds people out with jacana bird

Sometimes we see things that simply cannot be unseen. TikTok creator Mamadou Ndiaye who goes by the screen name mndiaye_97, has made his career out of educating people about weird animal facts that he finds fascinating. In most of his videos people walk away feeling more knowledgable on what animals to stay away from and which are actually as cuddly as they look.

But sometimes his videos makes the internet collectively gasp as they hear these untold facts. Recently, Ndiaye shared a video about the Jacana bird, who at first glance looks like an average bird with abnormally large feet. Viewers quickly realize the video is taking an hilariously uncomfortable turn when the next fact he drops involves a picture of the bird appearing to have eight sets of legs. Or maybe claws? No matter what it resembles, it's what nightmares are made of.

One viewer called it, "Birdie Kruger," and they're not wrong because the facts about this bird just kept getting more disturbing.

Keep ReadingShow less
Joy

Woman sets up an adorable 'date night' with her elderly dog

More than 1.5 million have watched the dog's unforgettable birthday dinner.

Representative Image from Canva

Spoil your pets every chance you get.

It’s one of the most bittersweet experiences that life has to offer—watching our fur babies grow old. No matter how much time we are blessed with such lovely creatures, it’s never enough time.

But, even during our pet’s golden years, when energy wanes and things tend to slow down, we can still spoil them and give them the greatest life possible. And if you’re in need of some inspo—or just a good reason to have a happy cry—look no further.

Dog mom Vicki had the brilliant idea of giving her elderly, but still so handsome Lab the most adorable ‘date night’ for his 16th birthday. He even got his own tux!

Keep ReadingShow less

Artist's apartment gains protected status after his death

You move into an apartment and can't wait to decorate it however you'd like but unfortunately you're pretty limited on what you can do. Most apartments don't approve anything that can't be easily removed, some don't even allow you to paint. One man in England decided that he was going to make his apartment his own by decorating it with his artwork.

Ron Gittins was an artist that lived in the same apartment for over 30 years before his death. During his time in the apartment, the artist had created art all over the walls. Not just elaborate paintings but huge sculptures affixed to the walls that took up the wall's entirety. His family visited the home after Gittins passed away, they were shocked to find such massive elaborate art pieces throughout the home.

The artist died in September 2019 according to CNN, but if you stepped into the home now, you'd see everything still in its place.

Keep ReadingShow less