A building which cost $1.5 billion and was 20 years in the making was moved into position over the highly radioactive remains of the main reactor at Chernobyl this week. The time lapse video above shows how the building was inched into place.
The new structure, which is about 500 feet long, has a span of 800 feet and is 350 feet high, is designed to last at least a century and is intended to prevent any additional spewing of toxic material from the stricken reactor.
Even with the building in place, the surrounding zone of roughly 1000 square miles will remain uninhabitable.
National Geographic photographer Gerd Ludwig has visited Chernobyl nine times over the past twenty years. The Long Shadow of Chernobyl is a forthcoming book collecting Ludwig’s photos, which includes an essay by Mikhail Gorbachev. The publication of the book is being funded via Kickstarter. There is also an iOS app.
This is what the trees look like near Chernobyl when you cut them down. It’s a biiiit tricky but see if you can spot when the nuclear plant disaster happened…
Not surprisingly, researchers have found evidence that the radiation has affected the growth of trees near the accident site. From the paper:
Mean growth rate was severely depressed and more variable in 1987-1989 and several other subsequent years, following the nuclear accident in April 1986 compared to the situation before 1986. The higher frequency of years with poor growth after 1986 was not caused by elevated temperature, drought or their interactions with background radiation. Elevated temperatures suppressed individual growth rates in particular years. Finally, the negative effects of radioactive contaminants were particularly pronounced in smaller trees. These findings suggest that radiation has suppressed growth rates of pines in Chernobyl, and that radiation interacts with other environmental factors and phenotypic traits of plants to influence their growth trajectories in complex ways.
From the NY Times Lens blog, a photo essay by Diana Markosian featuring a Ukrainian town near Chernobyl where only five families remain; the rest of the 1000 original residents evacuated after the disaster 25 years ago.
But life can be grim and lonely. Twenty-five years ago, Ms. Masanovitz was a nurse. Her husband was a farmer on a collective farm. Now he spends his time drinking.
While she was photographing the couple one day, Ms. Markosian watched as Ms. Masanovitz picked up the phone in astonishment. It was the first time it had worked in a year.
More photos are available on Markosian’s web site. (via @hchamp)
Powerful photo essay on Chernobyl, 20 years after the accident. Photographer Paul Fusco says the damage was so great that he thought he was looking at “a different race of people”. (thx, lisa)