35 years after the worst nuclear accident in history: Chernobyl
Ukraine commemorated on Monday, April 26, the worst nuclear accident in history, which occurred in Chernobyl 35 years ago, which contaminated a good part of Europe, but whose plant currently attracts tourists from all over the world and seeks its registration in UNESCO. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenski is due to visit the exclusion zone surrounding the damaged plant within a 30-kilometer radius on Monday.
35 years ago, for 10 days, nuclear fuel burned and released radioactive elements into the atmosphere that contaminated, according to some estimates, up to three-quarters of Europe, especially the then Soviet republics of Ukraine, Belarus and Russia. The Soviet authorities tried to hide this accident.
Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev did not speak publicly until May 14. Some 116,000 people were evacuated in 1986 from the surroundings of the plant, which are still practically uninhabited today. In subsequent years, 230,000 followed in his footsteps. Over four years, some 600,000 people were deployed to the scene with little or no protection to put out the fire, isolate the reactor and clean up the surroundings. The balance of victims of the catastrophe is still the subject of debate.
The UN scientific committee (Unscear) only officially recognizes about thirty deaths among workers and firefighters who died from radiation after the explosion. In 2006, the NGO Greenpeace estimated the death toll caused by the radioactive effects of the nuclear disaster at around 100,000.
35 years ago the region surrounding the plant was evacuated. Cities, fields and forests were abandoned. In total, more than 2,200 km2 in northern Ukraine and 2,600 km2 in southern Belarus are regions unfit for human life. Over time, nature has regained the ground: roads are reduced, eaten by weeds, houses and buildings disappear in wooded areas. In the central city of Pripyat, trees grow inside gray concrete buildings, decorated with glorious frescoes and decrepit Soviet emblems.
The Chernobyl nuclear accident exposed millions of people to radioactive pollutants and its health effects are still of interest to the scientific community. Now, a new study suggests that this exposure had "minimal, if any, impact" on subsequent generations. The work, which analyzes the complete genomes of 130 people born between 1987 and 2002, and those of 105 couples, found no evidence that exposure to ionizing radiation from parents led to new genetic changes that were passed on to their children. It is estimated that humans will not be able to live there safely for 24,000 years.