Ukraine launches its first solar plant in the abandoned area of Chernobyl, just across from the nuclear power station that caused the world’s worst nuclear disaster three decades ago. In April 1986, a failed test at reactor number 4 at the Soviet era plant sent clouds of nuclear contamination across Europe and forced 49,360 people to evacuate from the nearby city of Pripyat.
Thirty-one people died as a direct result of the nuclear accident; two plant workers died from blast effects and a further 29 firemen died as a result of acute radiation sickness. Thousands more across Europe, would later succumb to radiation-related illnesses such as cancer, the total death toll and long-term health effects remain more difficult to distinguish and remains highly contested.
In 2016, a giant arch ( largest movable land-based structure ever built) weighing 36,000 tonnes was pulled over the nuclear power station to create a casement to block radiation and allow the eventual dismantling of the ageing makeshift shelter from 1986 and the management of the radioactive waste.
However people will not be able to return to live in the evacuated zone for another 24,000 years, Ukrainian authorities say. The area around the plant is now part of an exclusion zone spanning 1,000 square miles (2,600 sq km).
It is the first time the site has produced power since 2000, when the nuclear plant was finally shut down. The Ukrainian government wants renewable energy companies to develop the abandoned land. Valery Seyda, head of the Chernobyl nuclear plant, said it had looked like the site would never produce energy again. It’s not just another solar power plant, the one-megawatt solar plant is a joint project by Ukrainian company Rodina and Germany’s Enerparc AG, costing around 1 million euros ($1.2 million) and benefiting from feed-in tariffs that guarantee a certain price for power.
It comes at a time of sharply increasing investment in renewables in Ukraine. Between January and September, more than 500 MW of renewable power capacity was added in the country, more than twice as much as in 2017, the government says.
Yulia Kovaliv, who heads the Office of the National Investment Council of Ukraine, said investors want to reap the benefits from a generous subsidy scheme before parliament is due to vote on scrapping it in July next year. “And that is why investors want to buy ready-to-build projects in order to complete construction before that time.” The 3,800 panels will produce energy to power 2,000 households.