Two Chinese firms have announced that they intend to rejuvenate Chernobyl’s exclusion zone by building a solar PV plant within its confines.

GCL System Integration Technology Co., Ltd. (GCL-SI) , a subsidiary of the world’s leading energy group GCL, will cooperate with China National Complete Engineering Corporation (CCEC) in delivering the Chernobyl PV plant project thirty years after the Chernobyl accident.

On 26th April 1986, during a safety check, reactor 4 of the Chernobyl power plant experienced a meltdown that could not be contained. As a result, it is estimated that more than 100,000 people have died as either a direct result of fallout or from subsequent radiation-related illnesses. It is also estimated that over £111.7 billion worth of damage was caused by the disaster. These astounding figures prove that regardless of who is considered responsible for the accident, cleaning up Chernobyl is of worldwide concern. If another reactor had blown during the meltdown, Chernobyl could have rendered the whole of Europe uninhabitable.

During the meltdown, vast quantities of radiation were released into the surrounding atmosphere, contaminating approximately 30 km2 of land with fallout. However, the Ukrainian government now aims to give a new renewable life to the exclusion zone. In October, the country’s Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources claimed the plan to build a PV plant at Chernobyl. “Its cheap land and abundant sunlight constitute a solid foundation for the project. In addition, the remaining electric transmission facilities are ready for reuse,” said Ostap Semerak, Ukraine’s minister of environment and natural resources.

Two Chinese companies will play significant parts in Chernobyl’s revival. CCEC are the general contractor and will manage the overall project. GCL-SI will offer consultancy and planning service as well as PV facilities to the project. According to GCL-SI, construction of the over 1 GW PV plant is expected to initiate in 2017. Once completed, Chernobyl will once again catch the global attention; this time as a revived site of solar energy.

“There will be remarkable social benefits and economical ones as we try to renovate the once damaged area with green and renewable energy. We are glad that we are making joint efforts with Ukraine to rebuild the community for the local people,” said Mr. Shu Hua, Chairman of GCL-SI.

Regarding GCL-SI’s overseas strategy, Mr. Shu further commented: “We have been dedicated to providing integrated solar services and will take diverse approaches this year to drive penetration and achieve global presence. The Chernobyl project is also one of our key steps to approach abroad.”

On the anniversary of the earthquake that launched the tsunami that took the lives, or resulted in missing persons of over 18,000 people in Japan and triggered the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl at the Japanese nuclear power station in Fukushima, Rueters have published an update on the clean up operation:

The robots sent in to find highly radioactive fuel at Fukushima’s nuclear reactors have “died”: a subterranean “ice wall” around the crippled plant meant to stop groundwater from becoming contaminated has yet to be finished. And authorities still don’t how to dispose of highly radioactive water stored in an ever-mounting number of tanks around the site. – Reuters

A clean up is estimated to take another 30 years before it can be considered complete. In the meantime nearly 8,000 workers take on the daily task of decommissioning the site and fight an on ongoing battle to stop the nigh on million tons of poisonous radioactive water seeping into the Pacific ocean.

Many of the 150,000 citizens who were displaced from their homes due to risk of contamination are being told that 2017 should see a reduction in the levels of radiation that make a return to those homes acceptable. However there is a wary distrust of the available information regarding the radiation levels, since much of it is sketchy and conflicting.

In April this year it will be 30 years since reactor four at Chernobyl went into melt down, the £18 billion clean up is still on going and the exclusion zone remains highly radioactive.

Since June 1954 when the USSR’s Obninsk Power Plant became the first to generate electricity, there have only been two of the highest category 7 nuclear events i.e.described as a major accident impacting on people and the environment. However, there have been several near misses.

It has been suggested that both of these event 7’s (Chernobyl and Fukushima) were a result of old technology and aging construction. Reactor one at Chernobyl was commission in 1977 just 9 years before reactor four exploded.

We can only trust that lessons have been learned and Chernobyl and Fukushima will remain forever as just two unfortunate events, never to be repeated. If not, prospects do not look good for people and the environment – and clean nuclear energy runs the risk of becoming disastrously dirty.

How safe is nuclear? Buildingspecifier invites the readership to comment below: