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How the Chernobyl Disaster Created an Amazing Wildlife Sanctuary

Out of the greatest nuclear disaster in human history comes a surprising twist: the Chernobyl Wildlife Sanctuary. That’s right, the radioactive area around the Chernobyl power plant, which is still unsuitable for humans to live in, has become the unlikely home of returning wildlife including bears, lynx, wolves and horses.

It’s been almost 30 years since the incident, and many young people only know of Chernobyl in general terms, or as a setting for Hollywood horror films. As a refresher, here are some key points that the World Nuclear Association posted about it:

  • The Chernobyl accident in 1986 was the result of a flawed reactor design that was operated with inadequately trained personnel.
  • The resulting steam explosion and fires released at least 5% of the radioactive reactor core into the atmosphere and downwind – some 5200 PBq (I-131 eq).
  • Two Chernobyl plant workers died on the night of the accident, and a further 28 people died within a few weeks as a result of acute radiation poisoning.
  • UNSCEAR says that apart from increased thyroid cancers, “there is no evidence of a major public health impact attributable to radiation exposure 20 years after the accident.”
  • Resettlement of areas from which people were relocated is ongoing. In 2011 Chernobyl was officially declared a tourist attraction.

Some of these points have been debated — such as the number of people killed, and the long term effects of the radiation on local residents — but with the disappearance of humans, animals have come back to claim the land. Check out the video from AFP and see how nature is bringing this wasteland back from the dead.

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