Andrea Bonisoli Alquati is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, SC. He holds a PhD in Ecology from the University of Milan, Italy. Andrea’s research focuses on the ecological and evolutionary consequences of nuclear disasters, particularly in Chernobyl and Fukushima. Today we share his series Chernobyl II, which explores the aftermath of the nuclear power plant disaster in 1986 in Chernobyl, Ukraine.

Palace of Culture. Pripyat, Ukraine.
The city of Pripyat, where approximately 50,000 people used to live before being evacuated a few days after the accident, it is today a quintessential ghost town.

Red Forest, Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, Ukraine.
Dr. Igor Chizhevsky of the Chernobyl EcoCenter inspects a nestbox in a contaminated area of the Red Forest. Behind him is a pile of contaminated soil amassed during clean-up operations by the Chernobyl ‘liquidators’, who were deployed from all over Soviet Russia to conduct the operations, exposing themselves to the risks of radiation.

Chernobyl II: An Aftermath in Color

Almost 30 years after the accident at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, its consequences for human health and the environment remain understudied and debated by scientists and the general public alike. The accident has long populated the imagination of the public and contributed to shape – through fear, if not through data – the energy agenda of several countries. The Chernobyl Exclusion Zone is now an eerie place, a “no man’s land,” where human settlements decay. Radiation is an enemy that persists and an invisible one. And yet the Exclusion Zone is not a barren landscape, not the apocalyptic scenario that science fiction had envisioned following a nuclear winter. This series of pictures explores the experience of visiting the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone where I have been working as a biologist researching the ecological effects of the disaster. While samples and data are aimed at satisfying my desire for an objective understanding, these pictures respond to the need of making sense of a dreamlike journey through unusual landscapes, history, and fear.

Building of reactor 4. Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, Ukraine.
Two Ukrainian scientists pose for pictures in front of the building of Reactor 4 of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. The iconic building is arguably one of the most famous buildings of all Ukraine, and certainly the most infamous. It is, however, destined to disappear from sight, as the new containment is being built thanks to the effort of the international community.

Common Redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus). Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, Ukraine. After being captured using a mist net, a male redstart is measured and inspected for the presence of morphological abnormalities. Studies of birds in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone have demonstrated an increase in morphological aberrations and tumors in exposed birds. They have also shown that the abundance and the diversity of bird species decline in highly contaminated sites.

Pripyat, Ukraine.
The city of Pripyat, where more than 50,000 people used to live, mostly workers of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant and their families, was once one of the youngest city of the planet, greeted by Soviet propaganda as a model town. It was evacuated a few days after the accident, and it is today a quintessential ghost town.

Geiger counter. Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, Ukraine.
A Geiger counter measuring radiation levels that are thousands of times higher than normal background. Less than ten hours of exposure to similar levels would give a radiation dose of 1 mSv, which is often considered the admissible limit for the general public. 1 mSv is also the dose that the Japanese government is setting as the ultimate target of its cleanup operations in Fukushima.

Pripyat, Ukraine.
An iconic sight, the ferris wheel of the amusement park of the city of Pripyat has never been used, as the park was to be inaugurated a few days after the town was evacuated, as a consequence of the disaster at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant.

Wall. Red Forest, Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, Ukraine.
An abandoned building in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone.

Radiation warning. Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, Ukraine.
In the middle of a forested area, a warning sign signals dangerous radiation levels.

A view of the infamous building of Reactor 4 of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant through the mist. An iconic sight, the building will soon no longer be visible, as a new containment structure is being built through the effort of the international community.

To view more of Andrea’s work please visit his website.