I arrived in Kiev, Ukraine, to research scenes for my upcoming spy thriller The Pyongyang Option. As part of this research, he toured the damaged Chernobyl nuclear power station complex, coming within 100 meters of the infamous reactor No. 4 that exploded in 1986, I also toured the nearby abandoned city of Pripyat. The Chernobyl disaster was something I’ve always wanted to research in greater depth, and seeing the nuclear facility up-close is one of my most fascinating experiences.
Reactor No. 4 at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, located in northern Ukraine (then part of the Soviet Union) exploded on April 26, 1986. The explosion and resulting fire released large quantities of radioactive particles into the atmosphere, which quickly spread over neighboring Belarus and Western Europe. The disaster is considered to be the worst accident of nuclear power plant in history, along with the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan. The explosion triggered a vast, complicated and costly operation by Soviet authorities to contain the radioactive contamination. While the official Soviet casualty count of was minimal, there is undisputed evidence that many people died from long-term effects of the radiation. Today, the Ukrainian government, with the financial support of other countries and international organization, is finishing a new containment structure to replace the existing one. The so-called sarcophagus that is currently in place was designed to contain the radioactive contaminants in the damaged reactor for only 30 years and needs prompt replacement.
Here are more pictures from my tour of the town of Chernobyl and the nuclear facility:
One of the areas that suffered the most contamination was the city of Pripyat, which Frieden visited after touring the nuclear power plant. Pripyat was founded in 1970 to house nuclear power workers and their families. With about 50,000 inhabitants, the town was made up of typical Soviet-style multistory apartment buildings, along with restaurants, shops and recreational centers. The authorities were heavily criticized for failing to evacuate the city quickly enough after the Chernobyl explosion, and as a consequence many of its inhabitants suffered severe illnesses over time. Today, the city remains abandoned, open to the occasional curious visitors who don’t mind receiving an unhealthy dose of radiation.
Here are some pictures I took in Pripyat: