Sustainable Development

Chernobyl could be turned into a solar energy farm

A radiation sign is seen, with a sarcophagus covering the damaged fourth reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the background, April 4, 2011. Belarus, Ukraine and Russia will mark the 25th anniversary of the nuclear reactor explosion in Chernobyl, the place where the world's worst civil nuclear accident took place, on April 26. Engineers are still struggling to regain control of damaged reactors at the Fuskushima plant after last month's earthquake and tsunami, in the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl in 1986, with the government urging the operator of the plant to act faster to stop radiation spreading.

The Ukrainian government has announced a plan to build a solar farm in an area just outside the exclusion zone. Image: REUTERS/Gleb Garanich

Ali Sundermier
Science Reporter, Business Insider
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The site of one of the world’s worst nuclear disasters might be on the verge of getting a makeover: The Ukrainian government has announced a plan to transform the radioactive wasteland of Chernobyl into a solar energy farm.

In 1986, the Chernobyl nuclear power plant suffered a catastrophic meltdown — one of the worst in history. Thirty years later much of the site is still unsuitable for humans to live.

Now, the Ukrainian government has concocted a plan to construct a series of solar panels in a large chunk of land outside the exclusion zone to harvest energy.

"The Chernobyl site has really good potential for renewable energy," Ukraine’s environment minister Ostap Semerak said in an interview in London. "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 solar farm would provide roughly 1,000 megawatts of power to the country per year, according to the California Energy Commission. That’s about a third of what Chernobyl nuclear power plant supplied to the country during its peak.

Global Horizontal Irradiation (GHI)
Image: Solargis via Bloomberg

In addition to providing the country with cheap, clean power, the Ukrainian government hopes that the project will make it less dependent on Russia, which is where the country currently gets the bulk of its natural gas.

However, the project could prove to be an expensive one, and Ukrainian officials are still trying to sort out the details and gather the funds needed to push it to the next stage. According to Bloomberg, they're in talks with two US investment firms and four Canadian energy developers.

"We have normal European priorities, which means having the best standards with the environment and clean energy ambitions," Semerak told the press.

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