Kickstarting a game where you pilot mini tank-drones around a scale model of Pripyat

Isotopium is a "remote reality" game that challenges players to pilot real miniature tank-drones around a massive, super-detailed scale model of Pripyat, the Ukrainian ghost-town created by the meltdown of the nearby Chernobyl reactor. Read the rest

Chernobyl pups find forever homes

Hey, remember a few months back when we told you about the dogs of Chernobyl? If not, long story short: when the nuclear power plant lost its shit back in the 1980s, everyone was evacuated so quickly that they were forced to leave their pets behind. The dogs living in the area were irradiated, but continued to breed. They went feral. Their numbers grew. But, when crews returned to the power plant with plans to clean the joint up, the dogs remembered that people were mostly OK. As such, the pooches decided to hang out. There was talk of a cull, but the workers at the plant refused to participate. A charity stepped in to keep and care foe the dogs. They’re currently living the best life many of them will have ever known.

For a handful of the wild pups, things just got even better.

According to Meduza, Ukraine State officials are planning on taking up to 200 of the dogs out of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. After holding them in medical quarantine for 45 days, the puppers, provided will be flown to the United States, where they’ll be put up for adoption. Provided they’re deemed to be free of radiation poisoning or any other weirdness, the first 12 dogs will be flown to the United States for adoption this June. There’s no word on where the dogs will be put up for adoption, but maybe that’s just as well: the dogs should be adopted because they’ll be lovable, loyal companions and not because of their irradiated pedigree. Read the rest

Meet the dogs of Chernobyl

In 1986, a nuclear reactor at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, located near the Ukrainian town of Pripyat, lost its shit. Flaws in the reactor's design caused a steam explosion, resulting in a fire that spewed plumes of radioactive material into the atmosphere. The Soviet government mobilized its armed forces to evacuate  the area surrounding the accident site where the risk to human life was the greatest. Families were forced on to buses and military transports with little more than the clothes on their backs. Without exception, the evacuees were forced to leave the pets behind. There was simply no time, or space, to include them in the rescue. Later the same year, Soviet troops were sent into the 30-mile wide Chernobyl exclusion zone to cull what animals they could find left still alive. Live stock, wildlife and deserted family pets were eliminated.

But they didn't get them all.

Largely free of people for over three decades, the exclusion zone has become something of a haven to a thriving (albeit, irradiated, in some cases) miscellany of wild animals. Most heartening of all, the dogs who survived the '86 cull, bred, increased their numbers exponentially and survived. As work began on a new, permanent include to house the still radioactive ruins of Chernobyl's number four reactor, many of the descendants of the abandoned, domesticated pooches began showing up at the construction site, looking for scraps and refuge from the wolves and other predators that pray on them in the wild. The workers at the Chernobyl site began making a habit to save scraps from their meals for the dogs. Read the rest

Chernobyl's deadly Elephant's Foot

This is a photo of the Chernobyl "Elephant's Foot", a solid mass made of a little melted nuclear fuel mixed with lots and lots of concrete, sand, and core sealing material that the fuel had melted through. The photo was taken in 1996. At that point, the Elephant's Foot had cooled enough that a human being could stand directly in front of it for an hour before receiving a lethal dose of radiation. When the Foot was first discovered, shortly after the 1986 accident at the Chernobyl power plant, it delivered a lethal dose in just five minutes. You can read Kyle Hill's interesting history of the Elephant's Foot at Nautilus. And be sure to check out this 1991 video that shows how people were able to rig up robotic camera systems to safely take photos of the thing (though, as Hill points out, not all the photos of Elephant's Foot were taken safely). Read the rest

Risk of forest fires rising near Chernobyl

A trend towards drier, hotter summers in the forests around the abandoned nuclear power plant at Chernobyl has increased the riks of forest fires in the region — which is a big deal, considering the fact that trees and plants in the area have absorbed some of the radioactive isotopes from the 1986 disaster. If they burn, more people will be exposed to airborne particles. It's a small fraction compared with the people exposed by the original Chernobyl power plant fire, but still dangerous. Read the rest