Chernobyl disaster, 25 year later: commemoration around the world

It's early morning on April 26 in Kiev, Ukraine, where the Chernobyl nuclear disaster happened exactly a quarter century ago. On this day in 1986, reactor number four at the plant exploded, setting off a catastrophe that still reverberates far beyond the 30-kilometer exclusion zone.

Demonstrations are taking place throughout Europe. In Tokyo, anti-TEPCO protests mark the occasion and its parallel to the still-unfolding disaster at Fukushima. The "liquidators" who were sent in to clean up the radioactive mess at Chernobyl back in 1986 received medals Monday from Russian president Dmitry Medvedev, but controversy still surrounds the health impact of the dangerous work they performed. The so-called "sarcophagus" surrounding the disaster site in Kiev is leaking, and world leaders have pledged "to provide $780 million for the construction of a shelter designed to house the toxic remains for another century." But even if and when that new container is finally in place, the radioactive mess will remain active—and hazardous—for many thousands of years more.

Maggie pointed to this recent report from Chernobyl for PBS NewsHour by Miles O'Brien— it's embedded above in this post, and worth another view on this day. [video link, or watch on, photo gallery].


Photo above by Miles O'Brien, who explains: "Scene from the former day care facility in the town of Pripyat — the company town for the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. The gas mask in this shot was there as we found it but I suspect it was placed there by a journalist or activist at some point over the years to make an obvious point even more obvious."


  1. Just a quick note about that photo… as is noted, people have infamously re-arranged objects in the apartment blocks to get photos like that. It just takes one person to re-arrange things and leave them, and then everyone that goes there afterwards thinks that’s how it was left 25 years ago. Having children’s gas masks right over a creepy doll face is a bit too perfect.

    This manipulation leaves a bad taste in my mouth and I wish the photos got less publicity. There are a lot of poignant images from the area that didn’t require manipulation to obtain. But, as this image provided by Miles O’Brien goes to show, I’m sure it’s irresistible to most. As a photographer, if I went there I would avoid those kinds of images like the plague (or, like radiation perhaps).

    1. Okay, I understand your position on faux posed photos, but outside of the caveat connected to this picture, is there any other evidence of this being done after the fact?

      Another scenario that is entirely plausible is one of the hundreds of folks charged with cleaning up the mess posed the items together to help mentally cope with the stress of the disaster they were going through. It happens.

  2. If ever there was a strong case for telepresence or robots, this is it.
    Anyone else surprised there weren’t robots galore in Japan, too bad all the thinking went into sex robots and car making robots and not general purpose “clean up disasters in environments humans can’t tolerate” robots.

    The cost benefit analysis says that they can build a robot for xxx million and produce it or hire cheap humans for only x million. What they dont want to admit is that it is more cost effective to send humans to their deaths than build the robot. Thank goodness it is still considered bad PR to plan for killing humans to clean up your radioactive mess.

    Here is a question: Since the power companies didn’t bear the cost of cleaning up their mess with the development of radioactive resistant robots, who will? Shouldn’t this cost be included in the cost per kilowatt? If robots arent ready to clean up it will be humans. Historically humans have used other subjugated human races for doing dangerous work. But with the global community watching they Japanese can’t force subjegated races of humans to do the cleaning. They have to trick people to do it (early Chernobyl didn’t tell workers the whole truth) or take volunteers for honor or money.

    All this could have been dealth with if money was spent to create disaster robots or powerful telepresence robots. Instead we have COSplay maid robots because that is what “the market” wanted.

      1. Interesting. How do you know that?

        I used to be interested in robots a lot and watched with glee the development of battlebots. It was a smart way to drive clever thinkers without a war.

        If materials are a problem, the robots only last 3 days, then build 30,000 of them. But again, someone also looked at the numbers and the possibility of a radioactive disaster and said, “Nah, spend the money of sex robots, war drones, car making or chip making robots we can sell lots of them.

        This research could have been funded with Chernobyl in mind. I watched the Battle for Chernobyl suggested above. If robots were designed to be in Chernobyl they could work in Japan. We had 25 years to do the work, but instead we looked to cheap expendable human lives. A cost that the powers that be understood but hoped they wouldn’t have to be called out on before the next disaster. There is a speadsheet someone where that calculates the cost of human lives vs. the development cost of disaster robots instead.

        1. Are rad hard robots really that hard? NASA us vaulting the electronics in a high density vault. Perhaps a depleted Uranium, boron, and some sort of Hydrogen bearing plastic layered vault could protect the electronics. Also you could go telepresence and use RF or towed optical wires. Don’t laugh perhaps micro miniature vac tubes?

      2. you might want to look into the lead based spray paint the us navy developed over 60 years ago.

      3. While true – they are completely doable. It just makes no money to make one, as its only been a handful of times in history one would prove useful.

  3. If we’re going to have nuclear power, and let’s face it, the government is going to fund a lot of it, we need to have some organization that develops robots to deal with a nuclear emergency. If we’re going to live in a world of nuclear terrorism, or even suffer a low grade nuclear exchange it’s probably time to start developing robots for the nuclear environment anyway.

    Man, why can’t we just bury the whole place? One way or the other we have to bury Chernobyl.

  4. Also check out Battle for Chernobyl as it’s easily the best documentary I’ve seen on the disaster. Youtube has it starting at

    The modern interviews with Mikhail Gorbachev are fascinating. He doesn’t hold much back and paints a pretty scary picture of how things were unfolding from his view.

  5. That “U.N. Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation”‘s statement looks like a piece of pro-nuclear propaganda if I have ever seen one!
    Just think of it, up until recently there were calling nuclear energy “cheap and clean energy”, I guess we forgot about Chernobyl, out of sight, out of mind!
    And until you include the cost of storing the toxic-basically-forever-waste, you can’t call it cheap, even it it was safe, which it’s not!
    There is a documentary called “Chernobyl Heart” about a specific heart defect in children as a result of this catastrophe.
    Also a book called “The Enemy Within: The High Cost of Living Near Nuclear Reactors : Breast Cancer, AIDS, Low Birth-weights, And Other Radiation-induced Immune Deficiency Effects ” about the effects of living near supposedly “safely-running” nuclear power plants, never mind the melted-down ones!

    If nuclear energy is neither cheap nor safe, why the HECK are we risking using it (other than to line the wallets of some very selfish and myopic people), who’s gonna watch these plants if civilization decays?!?

    P.S. I think the president of that Japanese nuclear power company (who chose profit over safety) should be INSIDE helping to clean up HIS mess!

  6. Did anyone see Into Eternity? If not, do so. It’s the creepiest (AND most sound) take on nuclear power I’ve ever seen. Got on my mind when they mentioned the half-life periods in the clip above, since that film is written as a “letter to future generations”.

  7. Ah I see someone beat me to posting about the picture. There’s a picture with the same doll, the same mask and different pose on Huffington Post right now.

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