Inside Chernobyl 30 years after the nuclear explosion where people LIVE
The explosion at Chernobyl’s nuclear power station on April 26, 1986, killed 31 people and resulted in the mass evacuation and abandonment of a huge area and led to an evacuation of 50,000 people.
A UN study has predicted the eventual death toll caused by cancers related to the blast and other illnesses will reach 4,000.
The disaster prompted the second most expensive nuclear clean up in human history, costing £39billion.
And today a 19-mile exclusion zone remains in place, with authorities estimating the area will not be officially safe for human inhabitation for hundreds of years due to the huge amounts of radioactivity being released.
Professor Smith with one of the local villagers who remained
To this day, the area in Ukraine is still a no-go zone due to the vast amount of radiation still present.
But some people refused to leave their homes following the tragedy, and Jim Smith, Professor of Environmental Science at the University of Portsmouth, has given an insight into what life is like there for the few inhabitants.
Professor Smith makes regular trips to the exclusion zone as part of a scientific investigation with British and Ukrainian experts as to whether food can be grown in the region.
During his time, Professor Smith has encountered some of the locals who he says are blossoming in the deserted town.
He told Express.co.uk: “There are the people who have been living there since the accident, some of the older self-settlers, and they have been growing their own crops since then, and they are getting a dose of radiation.
“But we’ve looked at some of the data, and they are living in the less contaminated areas, and the levels are kind of around and within limit.
“The people who remained after the accident, the self-settlers, the old people, they haven’t really been studied because they’re a particular group and it is very difficult to find a comparison group with those because they’re old and they have a different lifestyle to most people.
“I have heard stories in Ukraine that they have better lives than people of a similar age who moved out because they are living the life they choose to lead; they are living in their own houses, they’re growing their own crops, they’re kind of taking a survivor mentality.”
Locals still grow their own crops
The process of relocation for the 350,000 people who moved after the explosion was extremely stressful for the individuals, according to Professor Smith, and for this, he reckons the remainers are happier in some senses.
He said: “One of the things we learned after Chernobyl was the mental health impact; the relocation, the fear of radiation had a very significant adverse psychological effect on people.
“It has been argued that the people who decided to remain have had better lives and outcomes than the people who moved.”
Wildlife has also remained at Chernobyl
Professor Smith is helping the Ukrainian government decide if Chernobyl is now safe to start regrowing crops.
He has been awarded £100,000 in funding by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) to work alongside the Ukrainian government and others to develop an environmental management information system.
However, he concedes that it will likely be a matter of years before crops can be safely grown there.
Professor Smith said: “ If that is what the Ukrainians want, then you have to go through a process of doing the necessary tests of what the dose rates are.
“What we’re going to be developing is a protocol to decide what you have to do to say that the land is safe to use again.”