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. The amount of radioactive material from the disaster is estimated to be 400 times greater than what came from the atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima.
For more than three decades Chernobyl has been a example for the potential dangers of nuclear power. 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 sarcophagus ( largest movable land-based structure ever built) (pictured right) weighing 36,000 tonnes was pulled over the nuclear power station to create a casement to prevent deadly radiation spewing from the stricken reactor for the next 100 years. This allows 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.
The 3,800 solar power panels at Chernobyl, cover a area of 1.6 hectares which first began to deliver electricity to Ukraine's power grid in July of 2018. Solar power energy will continue to grow in Ukraine as the government had set a target of 25% renewable energy by the 2035.
This renewable energy target has been brought on when Russia illegally annexed Crimea and cut energy supplies to Ukraine in the 2014.
Ukraine has made significant renewable energy progress in recent years. The conversion to solar energy 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. There were 347 renewable energy projects supplying electricity at feed-in-tariff rates to the wholesale electricity market in Ukraine in 2018.