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Tchernobyl – Ukraine- église sous la neige. © Yann Arthus-Bertrand

The country was marked by the Chernobyl disaster, even though the radioactive fallout mainly hit Belarus. A high place for the former Soviet spatial industry, Ukraine is also part of the nations having a scientific station in Antarctica : it’s the Vernadsky base – a tribute to the father of the biosphere and the noosphere (the sphere of human thought) – where the “ozone hole phenomenon” specialists work.


Even though the consequences of heavy metal pollution are not well known, 17 tons of mercury and cadmium related to mining and industrial activities are poured into the Caspian Sea every year.

Nuclear : as in Belarus, the exact toll of the Chernobyl disaster is still the object of intense debates. Other than a 30 km no man’s land area surrounding the Chernobyl powerplant, 55,000 km² (including 25,000 km² of forests) have been contaminated with Caesium-137 ; that is 4,8 % of the territory, a population of about 2 million people, and 12 oblasts (regions) with 2,300 towns and villages. Forest fires, when they occur, push back radioactive substances into the atmosphere, and with each flooding others are taken downstream, especially down the Prypiat, a tributary to the Dnieper River flowing into the Black Sea. And yet 9 million Ukrainians drink the water from man-made reservoirs builts on the Dnieper River.

The 50,000 inhabitants of Prypiat city, built at the beginning of the 1970s, were evacuated within 40 hours following the disaster. It is a ghost town today.

The concrete sarcophagus urgently built around the reactor after the disaster, which confines the radioactive elements, shows signs of weaknesses. Thanks to a funding by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the new sarcophagus planned to cover the reactor is supposed to be hermetic for 100 years. Meanwhile, the Ukrainian President suggests using the site to stockpile foreign radiocative waste in exchange for financial compensations.

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