Chernobyl, Ukraine

Boom.  Chernobyl is the the nuclear reactor that almost rendered Europe uninhabitable.  In 1986 an experiment was conducted to see how much energy they could generate running on low power in an effort to increase efficiency.  This resulted in a chain of explosions within the reactors core, blowing the roof clear off.  A ray of multi colored light shot straight into the sky which attracted spectators to a nearby bridge.  The bridge is now nicknamed “The Bridge of Death” because of the fatal doses of radiation they received.

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Had an army of Civilians, Soldiers, Engineers and Firefighters not sacrificed their lives getting control of the situation, Ukraine would have been wiped off the map and Europe rendered uninhabitable.  The difference was a matter of days.  The nuclear fallout would have been 10x Hiroshima (Side Note: Nuclear bombs are detonated above the earth to limit the impact of the radiation, not on it…).

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To be vaporized or radioactive?:  Most of the deaths where a result of radiation exposure and not the initial explosion.  Which is worse?  Vaporized; gone.  Radioactive; You get all the symptoms of food poisoning, then feel fine!  The first responders were joking at the hospital in Moscow after the initial symptoms had passed.  However, medical staff knew better.   Their skin then began melting off before their bones started disintegrating from the inside out.  After you suffer for a while your central nervous system finally does you a favor and shuts down.  So, you decide.

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My experience:  I was surprised when I told Ukrainians I was going.  50% seemed disgusted by my curiosity and 50% impartial.  The disgust is what I found interesting.  As one scientist would say during the incident, “Chernobyl marks the first time in history nuclear energy has slipped out of the control of man”.  I assumed people would want to learn from such an event to ensure history doesn’t repeat.  I was wrong.

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The abandoned city of Prypiat which has captivated the world far more than the reactor, through photos of abandoned amusement parks and preschools, was eery to say the least.  When the Soviet Union finally admitted something had gone wrong, the people living close to Chernobyl were told to pack a bag and get on the bus.  Today you can visit the cities remains, but even the most dishonest tourists wouldn’t dare take one of the radioactive dolls as a souvenir.  For this reason it’s been pretty well preserved and the schoolwork laying on the ground and lockers decorated with fire trucks will give you the chills.

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The good news:  The Soviet Union did finally put an end the to the hundreds of thousands of people suffering from the impact of radiation poisoning;  they simply made it illegal for doctors to diagnose patients with it.  Brilliant!

PS.  I hope this picture didn’t shave a year off my life…

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