Ukraine has built a solar plant in Chernobyl close to the power station that was responsible for the worst nuclear disaster in history.
The solar plant has been constructed in a contaminated area that is largely uninhabitable and that tourists visit with guides armed with radiation meters, reports Reuters. The one-megawatt solar plant features 3,800 panels and provides power to 2,000 apartments.
The Chernobyl disaster occurred on April 25 and 26 in Pripyat when a test at the number 4 reactor at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant went wrong. Nuclear material entered the atmosphere of the Western USSR and Europe, and thousands of people were forced to evacuate.
Within days and weeks following the accident, 134 plant workers and firemen experienced acute radiation sickness, and over two dozen were killed. Many more died months and years later from radiation-related side effects, such as cancer. It’s unclear how many died in total from the long-term health effects of radiation.
The Ukrainian government has since built something beneficial in a place that is known for such a horrible tragedy. The significantly safer solar plant has a special meaning for the people of the country.
“It’s not just another solar power plant,” Evhen Variagin, the chief executive of Solar Chernobyl LLC, told Reuters. “It’s really hard to underestimate the symbolism of this particular project.”
The Ukrainian company Rodina teamed up with German company Enerparc AG to build the solar plant, which cost around 1 million euros (CAD$1.5 million). The nuclear power plant was completely shut down in 2000 and hasn’t produced any power since. At the time, no one believed Chernobyl would ever produce any more energy.
“But now we are seeing a new sprout, still small, weak, producing power on this site and this is very joyful,” Valery Seyda, head of the Chernobyl nuclear plant, told Reuters.
Before constructing the solar plant, the nuclear power station was covered two years ago by a 36,000-ton giant arch to block radiation and to enable the safe dismantling of the reactor. The remains of the No. 4 reactor building were initially covered in a shelter known as the sarcophagus in December 1986 for occupational safety reasons.
Ukraine is becoming increasingly more focused on renewable power, according to the government. Over the last nine months, the country has added 500 MW of renewable power capacity to its grid—more than double what it had in 2017.