Chernobyl thirteen years ago


Welcome sign to Chernobyl. Photo by Sue Burke

I’ve uploaded a new article to this site, Chernobyl: the half-life of war. I visited Chernobyl in 2006, twenty years after the disaster, then I came home and wrote about what I’d seen and learned.

Despite all my pre-visit research, the site wasn’t what I expected. It was grim, but not entirely: flowers were blooming at the Visitor’s Center, the forest was thriving, and the charm of the abandoned city of Pripyat was still apparent. During my visit, I learned that much of the radiation had sunk into the soil, where it was brought up by trees. A forest fire would release the radioactivity, so the forest rangers had to closely monitor the area, ready to act. It was neither a wasteland nor a fit place to live.

A recent HBO miniseries, Chernobyl, has dramatized the disaster. A bigger question remains: Why did it happen? In my article, I conclude that it was caused by desperate energy policies as the Soviet Union tried to win the Cold War. The Cold War ended, in part because of the Chernobyl disaster, but energy policies around the world remain desperate and misguided, and the world is still preparing for war. Fresh disasters hulk on the horizon.

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