Back in 2016, it was announced the Chernobyl site was set to be transformed into a gigantic solar power park, and as of last year, prominent international companies were set to invest billions into the project.
Few would argue that transforming a veritable wasteland – one that will remain dangerous for tens of thousands of years – into a sunlight-soaking clean energy initiative is a bad idea, and it seems that the enthusiasm for the project knows no bounds. According to an AFP report, the Ukrainian-German-led project is almost complete, and when it is, it’ll provide one megawatt of power – enough to power a medium-sized village.
This may not sound like too much now, but this is just the beginning. Back in 2017, the Chinese and German investors were keen on amping this capacity up to 2 gigawatts, which is enough to power 750,000 modern households – a small city, in other words.
At present, the solar plant sits just a few hundred meters away from the sarcophagus, a tomb that was placed over the site of the 1986 reactor collapse in order to prevent any more radioactive material from escaping. It currently consists of 3,800 photovoltaic panels, and it’s set to go online within the next few weeks.
The power will initially go to Ukraine, a nation that’s still besieged by a pro-Russian insurrection and armed conflict. Its economy is in a fairly dire state, and much of its electricity was derived from Russian-owned natural gas – something that’s in fairly short supply these days.
It’s an inspired idea. Although nuclear power is far safer than most people realize – and it’s likely to be a vital tool for solving the climate crisis too, as it’s a low-carbon fuel source – there’s no doubting that the world’s worst nuclear disaster has had quite the environmental and psychological impact.
Solar power is the clean energy technology that is proliferating faster than any other at present. It’s increasingly cheap and accessible, and it’s being adopted everywhere – from remote communities in parts of Africa to conservative states in the US.
It works, and doesn’t pollute or add to climate change, so it’s no surprise that it’s been getting some serious investment as of late. AFP notes that a similar-sized solar park has also been built in neighboring Belarus, in a region also affected by the 1986 radiation leak.
Although still not safe for workers to be there long-term, operating the solar power plant will be a breeze too. Thanks to the sarcophagus, radiation levels near the reactor are now just 10 percent of their previous levels.
The soil may be contaminated, but the Sun is shining on a bright new future for a region afflicted by a series of tragedies.