Entrance to the Exclusion Zone. (Image: Slawojar/Wikimedia)

A pair of Chinese companies are planning to build a solar plant in one of the scariest places in the world—the exclusion zone around the damaged Chernobyl nuclear reactor.

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Radiation from the 1986 meltdown is spread unevenly throughout The Zone, leading to government calls for population resettlement and renewed agriculture in regions deemed safe. As Reuters now reports, it also appears that Ukraine, with the help from two Chinese firms, would like to see the region start producing energy again, albeit in the form of something a bit... safer.

After the nuclear plant’s horrific meltdown, Soviet officials set up a restricted area around the site called the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, or simply The Zone. Even though it’s been 30 years since the accident, this restricted area is still exceptionally large, taking up approximately 1,000 square miles (2,600 square km) of space in Ukraine’s Kiev and Zhytomyr regions.

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The two companies, GCL System Integration Technology (GCL-SI) and state-owned China National Complete Engineering Corp (CCEC), announced plans to start building a 1-gigawatt solar power plant in an unspecified region of the Exclusion Zone. Comments made by a GCL-SI manager suggested that the plant would be built in an area where the radiation is under control. The site itself has already gone through several rounds of inspections by the company’s technicians.

“There will be remarkable social benefits and economic ones as we try to renovate the once damaged area with green and renewable energy,” noted Shu Hua, the chairman of GCL-SI, in a press release.

Like other Chinese firms, GCL-SI is seeking to expand its international presence—but who would’ve thought to tread into a territory so seemingly off limits. The Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, as scary as it might seem to outsiders, finally appears to be opening up. And how cool is it that a region scarred by nuclear radiation is poised to be rebooted by an energy source that’s both renewable and exceptionally safe.

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[Reuters]