Chernobyl disaster zone could be turned into the world’s biggest solar power plant

The area could be perfect, since there’s nobody there, but it remains unclear whether it would actually be safe to build it

Andrew Griffin
Monday 01 August 2016 18:59 BST
The abandoned city of Pripyat, near the site of the Chernobyl nuclear plant in Ukraine
The abandoned city of Pripyat, near the site of the Chernobyl nuclear plant in Ukraine (Reuters)

The site of the world’s most destructive nuclear meltdown could be resurrected as a power plant once again – but this time harvesting solar energy.

The exclusion zone that surrounds the site of the Chernobyl nuclear power station could be turned into the world’s biggest renewable power plant, according to Ukraine’s government.

When the plant had a meltdown in 1986 it led to the deaths of an estimated 100,000 people, and has caused continuing problems for the animals in the area.

But that same desolation could make the 1,600 square miles of now uninhabited space the perfect place to turn into a solar farm. Nobody can enter the area anyway, so filling the space with solar panels would help make it useful once again.

At four gigawatts, the power generated would be equal with the old nuclear reactor and make it by far the biggest solar power plant in the world.

And the area still has the infrastructure required for delivering large amounts of energy because the transmission lines from the nuclear reactor remain in place.

“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,” Ukraine’s environment minister said. “We have normal European priorities, which means having the best standards with the environment and clean energy ambitions.”

The area also still has personnel with training in generating and distributing electricity.

Ukraine: Chernobyl disaster visiting on the 30th anniversary

The project could already have the support of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, which has said that it “may consider participating in the project so long as there are viable investment proposals and all other environmental matters and risks can be addressed to the bank’s satisfaction”.

But it still remains unclear whether it would be safe or even possible to undertake such a building project in an area that still isn’t safe to venture into. The reason that the place is so desolate is because of the risks to anyone who goes into it – but those involved in the construction would be subject to those same risks as they work to build it.

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