The nuclear accident that occurred at Chernobyl on April 26 1986 was not only a horrific accident, but one that still tops the list as the world’s worst nuclear accident, both in terms of cost and casualties. It is one of only two nuclear accidents that have the maximum classification (level 7) on the International Nuclear Event Scale, the other being 2011’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan.
An inadvertent explosion within the reactor core triggered a practically all of its radioactive material to precipitate in the area. The death toll could be as high as 4,000 including those who died from radiation exposure in the years since. The cost of the accident and its consequences over the following three decades amounts to an astounding 18 billion rubles (nearly $300 million).
There is still a large quantity of radioactive material at the reactor, with a large contaminated area. A 30km exclusion zone remains around the site where the explosion occurred in the midst of a safety test. It was long thought that this uninhabitable area would no longer be able be able to sustain any energy operations or facility. Yet recent developments have lead to many wondering if the derelict area could become operational once again.
The derelict site of the former Chernobyl nuclear reactor plant has been proposed to be transformed into a solar energy park. Despite the disastrous events that took place there, the transmission lines to transport the electricity produced from its four gigawatts of power to households and factories are still in place.
In fact, more than 60 companies have proposed various schemes at the location of the plant and its surrounding area. Ukraine is reportedly in talks with France’s biggest energy business to create a solar park in Chernobyl, a construction that will cost $1.25 billion.
Ukraine’s Minister of Ecology, Ostap Semerak, told the Washington Post that: “France’s experience in nuclear is one of the reasons that we wanted to work with them. They approached us after we announced our intention to develop renewables in Chernobyl.”
“Ukraine has good solar irradiation, but a low level of confidence from investors and the consequent prohibitive cost of financing,” Pietro Radoia, a solar analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance, explained, “Engie might find a way around if it uses corporate financing though.”
The minister is leading the project, hoping to turn the 1,000 square mile site into one creating solar energy, over 30 years after it was abandoned. “The big question at this time last year was would anyone be interested, would anybody want to build renewables in a territory that’s limited, polluted?” Semerak explained, “We weren’t sure. Now we at least have some of the answers.”
It has been reported that Engie is starting a pre-feasibility survey this month, which will be paid for by the French government. The results will hopefully be published by the end of this year. A spokesperson for the company verified that they are in talks with the Ukrainian government, but have chosen not to release any further information.