30 Years After the Chernobyl Disaster

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. On April 26, 1986, technicians conducting a test inadvertently caused reactor number four to explode. Several hundred staff and firefighters then tackled a blaze that burned for 10 days and sent a plume of radiation around the world in the worst-ever civil nuclear disaster. More than 50 reactor and emergency workers were killed at the time. Authorities evacuated 120,000 people from the area, including 43,000 from the city of Pripyat. Reuters reports that a huge recently-completed enclosure called the New Safe Confinement—the world’s largest land-based moving structure—will be “pulled slowly over the site later this year to create a steel-clad casement to block radiation and allow the remains of the reactor to be dismantled safely.” Gathered below are recent images of the ongoing cleanup work and the ghost towns being reclaimed by nature within the 1,000-square-mile (2,600-square-kilometers) exclusion zone in Ukraine. (via Atlantic)

A gigantic steel arch under construction to cover the remnants of the exploded reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, in Chernobyl, Ukraine, on Sunday, Aug. 25, 2013, the scene of the world's worst nuclear accident. The No. 4 reactor at Chernobyl nuclear power plant was the scene of a major explosion in 1986, resulting in the evacuation of the nearby town and the ongoing legacy of protecting against any possible radiation leaks. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
A gigantic steel arch under construction to cover the remnants of the exploded reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, in Chernobyl, Ukraine, on Sunday, Aug. 25, 2013, the scene of the world’s worst nuclear accident. The No. 4 reactor at Chernobyl nuclear power plant was the scene of a major explosion in 1986, resulting in the evacuation of the nearby town and the ongoing legacy of protecting against any possible radiation leaks. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
PRIPYAT, UKRAINE - SEPTEMBER 29: An assistant holds up a photo showing the city of Pripyat's main square and the "Energetik" cultural center before 1986 at the same site that today is abandoned and overgrown with trees on September 29, 2015 in Pripyat, Ukraine. Pripyat lies only a few kilometers from the former Chernobyl nuclear power plant and was built in the 1970s to house the plant's workers and their families. On April 26, 1986, technicians at Chernobyl conducting a test inadvertently caused reactor number four to explode, sending plumes of highly radioactive particles and debris into the atmosphere. Authorities evacuated 120,000 people from the area, including 43,000 from Pripyat. Today Pripyat is a ghost-town, its apartment buildings, shops, restaurants, hospital, schools, cultural center and sports facilities derelict and its streets overgrown with trees. The city lies in the inner exclusion zone around Chernobyl where hot spots of persistently high levels of radiation make the area uninhabitable for thousands of years to come. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
PRIPYAT, UKRAINE – SEPTEMBER 29: An assistant holds up a photo showing the city of Pripyat’s main square and the “Energetik” cultural center before 1986 at the same site that today is abandoned and overgrown with trees on September 29, 2015 in Pripyat, Ukraine. Pripyat lies only a few kilometers from the former Chernobyl nuclear power plant and was built in the 1970s to house the plant’s workers and their families. On April 26, 1986, technicians at Chernobyl conducting a test inadvertently caused reactor number four to explode, sending plumes of highly radioactive particles and debris into the atmosphere. Authorities evacuated 120,000 people from the area, including 43,000 from Pripyat. Today Pripyat is a ghost-town, its apartment buildings, shops, restaurants, hospital, schools, cultural center and sports facilities derelict and its streets overgrown with trees. The city lies in the inner exclusion zone around Chernobyl where hot spots of persistently high levels of radiation make the area uninhabitable for thousands of years to come. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
Containers are seen at a plant for processing liquid radioactive waste at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine March 23, 2016. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich - RTSBZ83
Containers are seen at a plant for processing liquid radioactive waste at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine March 23, 2016. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich – RTSBZ83
CHORNOBYL, UKRAINE - SEPTEMBER 30: An abandoned Soviet Cold War-era radar system known as "The Woodpecker" used to detect incoming missiles and that measures 140 meters tall stands inside the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone on September 30, 2015 near Chornobyl, Ukraine. The Chernobyl Exclusion Zone is a 2,600 square kilometer restricted access zone established in the contaminated area around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. On April 26, 1986, technicians at Chernobyl conducting a test inadvertently caused reactor number four to explode, creating the worst nuclear accident in history. Authorities evacuated 120,000 people from surrounding towns and villages. While workers employed at the Chernobyl site today and a small number of returnees live in the outer zone, no one is allowed to live in the inner zone, where hot spots of radiation make the area uninhabitable for thousands of years to come. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
CHORNOBYL, UKRAINE – SEPTEMBER 30: An abandoned Soviet Cold War-era radar system known as “The Woodpecker” used to detect incoming missiles and that measures 140 meters tall stands inside the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone on September 30, 2015 near Chornobyl, Ukraine. The Chernobyl Exclusion Zone is a 2,600 square kilometer restricted access zone established in the contaminated area around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. On April 26, 1986, technicians at Chernobyl conducting a test inadvertently caused reactor number four to explode, creating the worst nuclear accident in history. Authorities evacuated 120,000 people from surrounding towns and villages. While workers employed at the Chernobyl site today and a small number of returnees live in the outer zone, no one is allowed to live in the inner zone, where hot spots of radiation make the area uninhabitable for thousands of years to come. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
A man walks past a ruined house in the abandoned village of Vezhishche in the 30 km exclusion zone around the Chernobyl nuclear reactor, some 380 km southeast of the Belarus capital Minsk, on April 23, 2011. April 26 marks the 26th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. One fifth of Belarus' agricultural land was contaminated following the blast at the nuclear reactor in the Ukraine and around 70% of the fallout fell in Belarus. / AFP / VICTOR DRACHEV (Photo credit should read VICTOR DRACHEV/AFP/Getty Images)
A man walks past a ruined house in the abandoned village of Vezhishche in the 30 km exclusion zone around the Chernobyl nuclear reactor, some 380 km southeast of the Belarus capital Minsk, on April 23, 2011. April 26 marks the 26th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. One fifth of Belarus’ agricultural land was contaminated following the blast at the nuclear reactor in the Ukraine and around 70% of the fallout fell in Belarus. / AFP / VICTOR DRACHEV (Photo credit should read VICTOR DRACHEV/AFP/Getty Images)
A view of the abandoned city of Pripyat is seen near the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine March 28, 2016. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich - RTSCKBZ
A view of the abandoned city of Pripyat is seen near the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine March 28, 2016. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich – RTSCKBZ
An abandoned hall of a building in Pripyat, Ukraine, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2011.Pripyat was built for workers at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, but the city that once was home to 49,000 was abandoned soon after a plant reactor exploded on Aril 26, 1986. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
An abandoned hall of a building in Pripyat, Ukraine, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2011.Pripyat was built for workers at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, but the city that once was home to 49,000 was abandoned soon after a plant reactor exploded on Aril 26, 1986. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
PRIPYAT, UKRAINE - SEPTEMBER 30: In this aerial view a Soviet-era hammer and sickle are adorned with a Ukrainian flag on top of an abandoned apartment building on September 30, 2015 in Pripyat, Ukraine. Pripyat lies only a few kilometers from the former Chernobyl nuclear power plant and was built in the 1970s to house the plant's workers and their families. On April 26, 1986, technicians at Chernobyl conducting a test inadvertently caused reactor number four to explode, sending plumes of highly radioactive particles and debris into the atmosphere. Authorities evacuated 120,000 people from the area, including 43,000 from Pripyat. Today Pripyat is a ghost-town, its apartment buildings, shops, restaurants, hospital, schools, cultural center and sports facilities derelict and its streets overgrown with trees. The city lies in the inner exclusion zone around Chernobyl where hot spots of persistently high levels of radiation make the area uninhabitable for thousands of years to come. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
PRIPYAT, UKRAINE – SEPTEMBER 30: In this aerial view a Soviet-era hammer and sickle are adorned with a Ukrainian flag on top of an abandoned apartment building on September 30, 2015 in Pripyat, Ukraine. Pripyat lies only a few kilometers from the former Chernobyl nuclear power plant and was built in the 1970s to house the plant’s workers and their families. On April 26, 1986, technicians at Chernobyl conducting a test inadvertently caused reactor number four to explode, sending plumes of highly radioactive particles and debris into the atmosphere. Authorities evacuated 120,000 people from the area, including 43,000 from Pripyat. Today Pripyat is a ghost-town, its apartment buildings, shops, restaurants, hospital, schools, cultural center and sports facilities derelict and its streets overgrown with trees. The city lies in the inner exclusion zone around Chernobyl where hot spots of persistently high levels of radiation make the area uninhabitable for thousands of years to come. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
A view of the abandoned city of Pripyat near the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine March 23, 2016. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich - RTSBZGV
A view of the abandoned city of Pripyat near the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine March 23, 2016. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich – RTSBZGV
A view of an amusement park in the centre of the abandoned town of Pripyat near the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine March 28, 2016. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich - RTSCKB9
A view of an amusement park in the centre of the abandoned town of Pripyat near the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine March 28, 2016. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich – RTSCKB9
PRIPYAT, UKRAINE - SEPTEMBER 29: Rotting wooden chairs stand under a collapsed ceiling in the damp and abandoned auditorium of the "Energetika" cultural center on September 29, 2015 in Pripyat, Ukraine. Pripyat lies only a few kilometers from the former Chernobyl nuclear power plant and was built in the 1970s to house the plant's workers and their families. On April 26, 1986, technicians at Chernobyl conducting a test inadvertently caused reactor number four to explode, sending plumes of highly radioactive particles and debris into the atmosphere. Authorities evacuated 120,000 people from the area, including 43,000 from Pripyat. Today Pripyat is a ghost-town, its apartment buildings, shops, restaurants, hospital, schools, cultural center and sports facilities derelict and its streets overgrown with trees. The city lies in the inner exclusion zone around Chernobyl where hot spots of persistently high levels of radiation make the area uninhabitable for thousands of years to come. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
PRIPYAT, UKRAINE – SEPTEMBER 29: Rotting wooden chairs stand under a collapsed ceiling in the damp and abandoned auditorium of the “Energetika” cultural center on September 29, 2015 in Pripyat, Ukraine. Pripyat lies only a few kilometers from the former Chernobyl nuclear power plant and was built in the 1970s to house the plant’s workers and their families. On April 26, 1986, technicians at Chernobyl conducting a test inadvertently caused reactor number four to explode, sending plumes of highly radioactive particles and debris into the atmosphere. Authorities evacuated 120,000 people from the area, including 43,000 from Pripyat. Today Pripyat is a ghost-town, its apartment buildings, shops, restaurants, hospital, schools, cultural center and sports facilities derelict and its streets overgrown with trees. The city lies in the inner exclusion zone around Chernobyl where hot spots of persistently high levels of radiation make the area uninhabitable for thousands of years to come. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
A view of the abandoned city of Pripyat is seen near the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine March 23, 2016. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich - RTSBZGE
A view of the abandoned city of Pripyat is seen near the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine March 23, 2016. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich – RTSBZGE
A playground in the deserted town of Pripyat, Ukraine, some 3 kilometers (1.86 miles) from the Chernobyl nuclear power plant Ukraine, Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2012. Workers on Tuesday raised the first section of a colossal arch-shaped structure that is planned to eventually cover the exploded reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power station. Project officials on Tuesday hailed the raising as a significant step in a complex effort to liquidate the consequences of the world's worst nuclear accident, in 1986. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
A playground in the deserted town of Pripyat, Ukraine, some 3 kilometers (1.86 miles) from the Chernobyl nuclear power plant Ukraine, Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2012. Workers on Tuesday raised the first section of a colossal arch-shaped structure that is planned to eventually cover the exploded reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power station. Project officials on Tuesday hailed the raising as a significant step in a complex effort to liquidate the consequences of the world’s worst nuclear accident, in 1986. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
CHORNOBYL, UKRAINE - SEPTEMBER 29: Instrument panels in the control room of reactor number two and nearly identical to the panels in the control room of reactor four stand inside the former Chernobyl nuclear power plant on September 29, 2015 near Chornobyl, Ukraine. The Chernobyl plant is currently undergoing a decades-long decommissioning process of reactors one, two and three, which continued operation for years following the accident at reactor four. On April 26, 1986, technicians at Chernobyl conducting a test inadvertently caused reactor number four, which contained over 200 tons of uranium, to explode, flipping the 1,200 ton lid of the reactor into the air and sending plumes of highly radioactive particles and debris into the atmosphere in a deadly cloud that reached as far as western Europe. 32 people, many of them firemen sent to extinguish the blaze, died within days of the accident, and estimates vary from 4,000 to 200,000 deaths since then that can be attributed to illnesses resulting from Chernobyl's radioactive contamination. Today large portions of the inner and outer Chernobyl Exclusion Zone that together cover 2,600 square kilometers remain contaminated. A consortium of western companies is building a movable enclosure called the New Safe Confinement that will cover the reactor remains and its fragile sarcophagus in order to prevent further contamination. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
CHORNOBYL, UKRAINE – SEPTEMBER 29: Instrument panels in the control room of reactor number two and nearly identical to the panels in the control room of reactor four stand inside the former Chernobyl nuclear power plant on September 29, 2015 near Chornobyl, Ukraine. The Chernobyl plant is currently undergoing a decades-long decommissioning process of reactors one, two and three, which continued operation for years following the accident at reactor four. On April 26, 1986, technicians at Chernobyl conducting a test inadvertently caused reactor number four, which contained over 200 tons of uranium, to explode, flipping the 1,200 ton lid of the reactor into the air and sending plumes of highly radioactive particles and debris into the atmosphere in a deadly cloud that reached as far as western Europe. 32 people, many of them firemen sent to extinguish the blaze, died within days of the accident, and estimates vary from 4,000 to 200,000 deaths since then that can be attributed to illnesses resulting from Chernobyl’s radioactive contamination. Today large portions of the inner and outer Chernobyl Exclusion Zone that together cover 2,600 square kilometers remain contaminated. A consortium of western companies is building a movable enclosure called the New Safe Confinement that will cover the reactor remains and its fragile sarcophagus in order to prevent further contamination. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
A containment shelter for the damaged fourth reactor (L) and the New Safe Confinement (NSC) structure (R) at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant are seen from Ukraine's abandoned town of Pripyat, Ukraine, March 23, 2016. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich - RTSBYX8
A containment shelter for the damaged fourth reactor (L) and the New Safe Confinement (NSC) structure (R) at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant are seen from Ukraine’s abandoned town of Pripyat, Ukraine, March 23, 2016. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich – RTSBYX8
A Belarussian woman visits her abandoned house during "Radunitsa", or the Day of Rejoicing, a holiday in the Eastern Orthodox Church to remember the dead, in the abandoned village of Orevichi, near the exclusion zone around the Chernobyl nuclear reactor, southeast of Minsk, April 21, 2015. Every year residents, who left their villages after the Chernobyl blast, gather at the cemeteries for a day to visit their relatives' graves, and to meet with former friends and neighbours. Belarus, Ukraine and Russia will be marking the 29th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor explosion, the world's worst civil nuclear accident which took place on April 26, 1986. REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko - RTX19N5M
A Belarussian woman visits her abandoned house during “Radunitsa”, or the Day of Rejoicing, a holiday in the Eastern Orthodox Church to remember the dead, in the abandoned village of Orevichi, near the exclusion zone around the Chernobyl nuclear reactor, southeast of Minsk, April 21, 2015. Every year residents, who left their villages after the Chernobyl blast, gather at the cemeteries for a day to visit their relatives’ graves, and to meet with former friends and neighbours. Belarus, Ukraine and Russia will be marking the 29th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor explosion, the world’s worst civil nuclear accident which took place on April 26, 1986. REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko – RTX19N5M
PRIPYAT, UKRAINE - SEPTEMBER 30: In this aerial view an abandoned ferris wheel stands on a public space overgrown with trees in the former city center on September 30, 2015 in Pripyat, Ukraine. Pripyat lies only a few kilometers from the former Chernobyl nuclear power plant and was built in the 1970s to house the plant's workers and their families. On April 26, 1986, technicians at Chernobyl conducting a test inadvertently caused reactor number four to explode, sending plumes of highly radioactive particles and debris into the atmosphere. Authorities evacuated 120,000 people from the area, including 43,000 from Pripyat. Today Pripyat is a ghost-town, its apartment buildings, shops, restaurants, hospital, schools, cultural center and sports facilities derelict and its streets overgrown with trees. The city lies in the inner exclusion zone around Chernobyl where hot spots of persistently high levels of radiation make the area uninhabitable for thousands of years to come. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
PRIPYAT, UKRAINE – SEPTEMBER 30: In this aerial view an abandoned ferris wheel stands on a public space overgrown with trees in the former city center on September 30, 2015 in Pripyat, Ukraine. Pripyat lies only a few kilometers from the former Chernobyl nuclear power plant and was built in the 1970s to house the plant’s workers and their families. On April 26, 1986, technicians at Chernobyl conducting a test inadvertently caused reactor number four to explode, sending plumes of highly radioactive particles and debris into the atmosphere. Authorities evacuated 120,000 people from the area, including 43,000 from Pripyat. Today Pripyat is a ghost-town, its apartment buildings, shops, restaurants, hospital, schools, cultural center and sports facilities derelict and its streets overgrown with trees. The city lies in the inner exclusion zone around Chernobyl where hot spots of persistently high levels of radiation make the area uninhabitable for thousands of years to come. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)