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On April 26, 1986, a power surge caused an explosion at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant near Pripyat, Ukraine. A large quantity of radioactive material was released.

On May 2, 1986, the Soviet government established a “Zone of Alienation” or “Exclusion Zone” around Chernobyl – a thousand square miles of “radioactive wasteland.” All humans were evacuated. The town of Pripyat was completely abandoned.

But the animals didn’t leave. And a new study, published this month in Current Biology, suggests they are doing fine. “None of our three hypotheses postulating radiation damage to large mammal populations at Chernobyl were supported by the empirical evidence,” says Jim Beasley, one of the researchers.

In fact, some of the populations have grown. These photos (mostly taken by Valeriy Yurko) come from the Belarusian side of the Exclusion Zone, and area called the Polessye State Radioecological Reserve. Kingfisher, elk, boar, baby spotted eagles, wild ponies, moose, rabbits, and wolves all make their home in the park. In some ways, human presence is worse for wildlife than a nuclear disaster.


Image credits:

  • 1986 Chernobyl - ZUFAROV/AFP/Getty Images
  • Wildlife photos - Valeriy Yurko/Polessye State Radioecological Reserve
  • Ponies in winter - SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images

Fun fact: The reason why most of the footage from the Chernobyl disaster looks so grainy and low quality is due to the radiation it was exposed to, as it was so strong it heavily degraded the footage captured by the cameras, to the point it even broke the cameras themselves. Igor Kostin, one of the first journalists to arrive to the site, tells that all of his cameras stopped working after just a few shots, and almost immediately he too began to feel the effects of radiation, in the form of dizziness and a metallic taste in his mouth. 

Igor Kostin (27 December 1936 – 9 June 2015) with one of his photos of the disaster

The Biorobots of Chernobyl

In the last pic you can clearly see the radiation, in the form of the white stripes at the bottom of the frame.

Chernobyl disaster, the Bio-robots of Chernobyl on the rooftop of reactor N°4, sent there after the original remote-controlled vehicles were destroyed by the radiation.

The units used to measure radiation, roentgens or röntgens ®, are lethal after absorbing over 400R, so keep that in mind while watching the footage. 

From the documentary The Battle of Chernobyl.

Desastre de Chernóbil, los Bio-robots de Chernóbil sobre el techo del reactor N°4, enviados allá después que los vehículos a control remoto originales fueron destruidos por la radiación. 

Las unidades usadas para medir radiación, roentgens ó röntgens ®, son letales después de absorber 400R, así que mantengan eso en mente mientras ven el video. 

Del documental La Batalla de Chernóbil.

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The Elephant’s Foot of the Chernobyl disaster, 1986

A monster was born in the Chernobyl disaster - one of the most dangerous things in the world. 

The “Elephant’s Foot” is a solid mass made of melted nuclear fuel mixed with lots and lots of concrete, sand, and core sealing material that the fuel had melted through. It is located in a basement area under the original location of the core. In 1986 the radiation level on the Elephant’s Foot was measured at 10,000 roentgens per hour, and anyone who approached would have received a fatal dose in under a minute. After just 30 seconds of exposure, dizziness and fatigue will find you a week later. Two minutes of exposure and your cells will soon begin to hemorrhage; four minutes: vomiting, diarrhea, and fever. At 300 seconds you have two days to live.

When the above photo was taken, 10 years after the disaster, the Elephant’s Foot was only emitting one-tenth of the radiation it once had. Still, merely 500 seconds of exposure would prove fatal.

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The bio-robots of Chernobyl, liquidators tasked with the manual clean-up of heavily contaminated debris from the rooftop of reactor 4, since the RC vehicles originally sent were destroyed by the heavy radiation.

This was needed so the containment building, know as the sarcophagus, could be build around it.

All of them absorbed the maximum radiation a human can handle in a lifetime, some even a 100 times that, many died years latter, and the survivors now live a cripples as the radiation simply destroyed them, let us remember their sacrifices, the unsung heroes of one of the worst disasters humanity has ever seen.