"On April 26th, 1986, an explosion in Reactor 4 of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine, released large quantities of radioactive contamination into the air over Ukraine, Belarus and huge portions of Europe." -Time Magazine 2011
After the accident, perhaps not quickly enough the surrounding towns and countryside in a 31 km circle around the plant were evacuated. People called "Liquidators" were sent in to clean up the contaminated area many of them being subjected to a lifetime of radiation in seconds. Some of these Liquidators died soon after their exposure but a surprising number of them survived their exposure and the consequent radiation poisoning.
The long term effects of the disaster have been dire, resulting in vastly increased rates of cancerous disease, and mutations in both human and animal life. The land once relatively well populated is now largely barren of people and being slowly taken over by plants and animals once near extinction, such as wolves and wild boar. The area in Belarus, once called the "Breadbasket of Europe" is now a wasteland of toxic soil and contaminated water that will not be fit for human habitation within out lifetime.
I was fourteen years old when this tragedy occurred. Growing up in Canada what felt like a world away from Ukraine, I still remember the terror that gripped the World within those first weeks after it became common knowledge. What I don't remember is any one nation deciding it was time to end their reliance on nuclear power. It was only recently that I found out Italy, in light of the Chernobyl disaster had decided agianst the use of nuclear power and had dismantled it's nuclear power program and the plants that were a product of it.
In 2000, I found an image of Liquidators sent into the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant shortly after the disaster. They were dressed in Tyvek suits with respirator masks. I remember thinking the outfits looked woefully inadequate to the task they had to undertake. I made a small painting from this photograph that can be found under "Portraits" from my home page, titled "Good Enough For Chernobyl...". I have been creating kaleidoscopic portraits from this painting. They are rather astonishing in their beauty, yet somehow retain fragments of the fear and horror I feel in relation to my own understanding and overactive imaginings of nuclear disaster and it's consequences.
In light of the Fukishima Nuclear disaster of 2011, and all of the Countries, mine included that perpetuate the use of nuclear power as a clean source of electricity. I hope we see the light soon and change our ways. I hope no one else ever has to go into a nuclear plant to clean up after a disaster like Chernobyl or Fukishima wearing a Tyvek suit and a respirator. I hope no one else ever has to evacuate from their town or watch their child develop cancer and waste away before their eyes, or live with the constant fear of physical repurcussions because some bigwig somewhere decided it was easier or cheaper to just keep that old reactor running.
Excuse the extreme ramble. That's what has been on my mind. I hope you all find the light in every day, seek it out it is always there somewhere. Love for all you are worth.
Thanks for reading. xoxo