GALLERIES

The images that follow do not require descriptions. Just look at them and imagine them as once being thriving busy cities, or small quiet country villages. They are not areas that have been desolated by war or drought or fire. Not areas of soil that has ceased to be fertile or the result of any natural event. This was some of the richest soil in the world inhabited by over a million people. It will stay as pictured for an unknown time. Optimists say 300 to 900 years. That is if no more radiation escapes and remember that only 3.5% of the radioactive material escaped Chernobyl 4.

REMEMBER, THIS WAS AN ACCIDENT.

A total power of around 200 times that of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs was released from Chernobyl according to the World Health Organisation. Reactor fuel is enriched to only 2% to 5% pure uranium; weapons grade uranium is enriched to levels as high as 90%. The "local" inhabitants were indeed fortunate that reactor fuel is claimed to be non-explosive!!!

Remember that the remaining fuel could yet escape from the 300,000 tonne concrete and steel sarcophagus that was constructed shortly after the accident and that this sarcophagus is crumbling.

"A new, stable and environmentally safe structure is envisaged that will contain the remains of the reactor," says a press release from the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development, which will disburse the 840 million euros (US$1bn) the arch is expected to cost. The arch will last for 100 to 300 years, while the fuel will remain deadly for thousands of years.

During this time a longer-lasting solution to the Chernobyl problem must be found.

Two decades after the world's worst nuclear accident, there is still no consensus on the full impact of the disaster.

Torch (another report on Chernobyl) predicts an extra 30,000 - 60,000 cancer deaths across Europe as a result of the 1986 accident. It criticises the UN for focusing only on Belarus, Russia and Ukraine. Torch says this distorts the true picture because although these three nations were heavily contaminated, more that half of the radioactive fallout was carried to other European countries, including Sweden and the UK.

Mikhail Gorbachev had been Soviet leader for 13 months when the Chernobyl nuclear accident occurred. He reflected on the lessons from the disaster. Amongst other comments he said:

"The explosion at Chernobyl showed that we are capable of contaminating the planet for the long term, and of leaving a terrible legacy for future generations.

Today, mankind faces a challenge so huge that, by comparison, the Cold War appears like an incongruous vestige from the past.

Chernobyl clearly demonstrated that each disaster is unique and that no country can be prepared for every eventuality."

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