It’s now been 30 years since the world’s worst nuclear disaster took place at Chernobyl, Pripyat, in what is now Ukraine. It used to be a bustling Soviet metropolis of over 50,000 people, but a meltdown at the nearby nuclear power station forced them to quickly evacuate.
Nowadays, it’s an eerie ghost town that few dare to visit; overrun by nature, it is a reminder of what can happen when humanity is at its most careless. The detrimental effects of the meltdown are still being felt today, and although nuclear power plants are actually remarkably safe compared to their fossil fuel equivalents – which are rapidly destroying the environment and killing millions every year – when things go south, they do so on a terrifying scale.
The exclusion zone around the reactor is normally off limits to visitors due to its high levels of lingering radiation, but adventure tours to the abandoned town are available. If you can’t head there yourself, a documentary by FRONTLINE called “Return to Chernobyl,” in partnership with the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at New York University, is the next best thing.
Return to Chernobyl 360°, by Frontline via Facebook
Filmed on 360-degree cameras from within the exclusion zone, you can experience the nuclear ruins in first-person in immaculate detail, including the once-busy station, schools, houses, and eerie Ferris wheel. Most unnervingly of all, some of the reactor wreckage itself can also be explored.
The story behind the catastrophe is also included in this pioneering documentary, whose guide happens to be a former resident of Chernobyl. He was just nine years old when the disaster occurred; he’s now back to remind the world of what happened on that fateful day in 1986.