Chernobyl: lessons and legacy

CHERNOBYL Reactor Number Four is about to undergo a refit. Its fragile sarcophagus – erected in haste in 1986 – is riddled with holes and occasionally leaks radiation into the air. 

A new billion-dollar roof is being built in the field nearby, and the noise from the heavy machines occasionally breaks the eerie silence.

Twenty-five years ago this place was ground zero for what would become the world’s worst nuclear disaster. In the early hours of 26 April 1986, during a systems test, the reactor exploded. 

Initially, the Soviet authorities tried to cover it up. But over the days and weeks that followed, tonnes of ionising radiation particles were spewed out, reaching beyond Ukraine’s borders to ­Belarus and southern Russia, as well as parts of Europe. 

The town of Pripyat, just 3 km from the blast site, remains deserted to this day, after every one of its 47,000 residents was forced to leave. The