Thirty-two years ago, Chernobyl was the site of the biggest nuclear disaster the planet has ever seen. A nuclear accident released the radioactive equivalent of ten atom bombs into the Northern Ukrainian and Belarusian countryside, causing the total evacuation of the city and dozens of surrounding villages. Now, the plant at the centre of the nuclear nightmare is undergoing a transformation which will see the restoration of Chernobyl as an energy production hub.
Ukrainian firm, Rodina Energy Group, in conjunction with Enerparc Ag, a German renewable energy company, will develop a $1.2 million solar farm adjacent to the deactivated nuclear reactors. Once completed, the farm will house 3,800 solar panels, generating one-megawatt of electricity, enough to provide power around 200 households.
The project is part of a wider plan to develop the land in Chernobyl. The Ukrainian government is offering companies land in the nuclear wasteland at heavily discounted prices. 60 companies have put together proposals for the development of the land around the old nuclear reactors for use in the renewable energy sector.
The area lends itself to the renewable energy industry well. The site is already connected to the Ukrainian electrical grid because of its history as a nuclear power plant. This means relatively little infrastructural development has to take place in its transformation. Rather than drilled into the earth, the panels will be mounted on concrete slabs, as the soil around Chernobyl is still heavily contaminated.
For particularly intrepid tourists, it is possible to visit Chernobyl and its satellite ghost towns. There are also limited opportunities to see the reactors themselves. 4,500 people visited the abandoned nuclear plant in 2016. All visitors have to wear protective clothing and are warned not to touch items or sit down within the excluded area. The eerie desertion of the once-thriving city makes for an unconventional, yet oddly fascinating experience.