“This solar power plant can cover the needs of a medium-sized village,” Yevgen Varyagin of the Solar Chernobyl, the company behind the development, told AFP. Depending on the success of the facility, the Ukrainian-German company may one day ramp up production to almost 100 times current output.

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“Bit by bit we want to optimise the Chernobyl zone,” Varyagin told Anna Hirtenstein at last year. “It shouldn’t be a black hole in the middle of Ukraine.”

“This territory obviously cannot be used for agriculture, but it is quite suitable for innovative and scientific projects,” Ostap Semerak, Ukrainian Minister of the Environment, told AFP in 2016. Ukrainian authorities have opened up roughly 25 square kilometers for solar project developments with 60 proposals currently under consideration. Another 4.2-megawatt solar power plant was recently completed within the irradiated zone in neighboring Belarus.

On April 29, 1986, Reactor Number Four at the plant exploded, leading to the largest uncontrolled release of radioactive material into the Earth’s atmosphere in history, killing 31 people and contaminating up to three quarters of Europe. The plant’s other reactors continued to operate until 2000. Chernobyl is widely accepted as one of the two worst civilian nuclear disasters in history, along with the Fukushima incident of 2011.  

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