During a routine test on April 26, 1986, reactor Number 4 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant outside of Pripyat, Ukraine experienced a power surge. It caused a chain of events that quickly lead to a core meltdown. As cooling water vaporized, gigantic steam explosions ripped through the plant and exposed nuclear material to the surrounding area. Nearly 400,000 people had to be evacuated from contaminated areas in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus.
Pripyat is has been firmly in this fallout zone for the last 30 years. It’s an extremely dangerous place to explore, though oddly beautiful, which is why capturing the ghost town that Chernobyl left behind with a drone is maybe the best way to do it:
On location for a CBS story, photographer Danny Cooke made this amazing video of Pripyat with a combination of drone and personal footage. With the soundtrack, the video has a distinctly The Last of Us or The Walking Dead feel. From invisible particles blasting out of decaying metals, a mini apocalypse.
But a nuclear meltdown is a special kind of apocalypse. It’s not like a virus which sweeps though humanity buts leaves the areas inhabitable. Based on the half-life — the time it takes for half of the radioactive material to decay into another material — of the fallout released from the Chernobyl core, it has been estimated that the surrounding areas will remain uninhabitable for thousands of years, possibly tens of thousands.
Before human can again colonize this damned swath of earth, robots and drones will be the only way to explore the desolation. It’s deadly, but strangely beautiful.