Solar Power Could Be Coming Soon to Chernobyl

Image: AP
Image: AP

The atomic fallout in Chernobyl, Ukraine was one of the worst nuclear disasters in history and put around 2,600 square kilometers (around 1,000 square miles) of land out of commission. It’s been good for shitty horror films and for the wildlife that has blossomed there following the disaster, but after decades of people unable to return to their homes and the property surrounding the reactor abandoned, it was only a matter of time before somebody wanted to attempt to reuse it.

According to Bloomberg, Ukraine is seeking investors to help it build a solar complex in the area, with the goal to install four megawatts of panels by the end of the year.

The plan has the potential to solve two of the country’s problems. For one, it’ll bring productivity back to the area, which is still largely unusable due to long-term radiation exposure, but has an ample supply of cheap land.


“The Chernobyl site has really good potential for renewable energy,” Ukraine’s environment minister Ostap Semerak said. “We already have high-voltage transmission lines that were previously used for the nuclear stations, the land is very cheap and we have many people trained to work at power plants.”

The second advantage, and the one that seems to be most appealing to Ukranian officials, is that relying on solar energy produced within the country will decrease its reliance on Russia for resources. Tensions are high specifically near the eastern region of Donbass along the Russian border, where fighting has been breaking out since 2014. Russian rebels have been invading Ukranian territory and despite news coverage dying out, the war is still going. The country has already halved consumption from Russia, according to Ukrtransgaz PJSC, and the solar initiative would only increase that number.

While the move would probably not bode well for the local wildlife, and could be risky for those working on it, it would hopefully bring jobs to the area. But Chernobyl has been seeing improvement since the meltdown in 1986. According to the World Nuclear Association, operations are ongoing to build containment units around the nuclear reactors. Relocation has also been underway, with the governments of neighboring Belarus working to resettle areas and fix infrastructure in the Exclusion Zone. Radiation is still prominent in many areas, but villages with lower measurements are allowed to be used with some restrictions.

So far, Ukraine has interested a number of foreign investors, including two firms in the US, so the world’s most intriguing abandoned zone might make a mild comeback.



Weekend editor and night person at Gizmodo. More space core than human.

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Just out of curiosity, how much maintenance is a solar plant? Can it be done mostly off-site (until a problem arises)?