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Chernobyl

Thursday, April 27, 2006
Yesterday was the 20th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster, one of the worst accidents in human history in terms of long-term effects on the planet and on humanity. According to the Wikipedia article, 56 deaths are directly attributable to the accident, but hundreds of thousands of deaths or illnesses might be triggered by it - and the area will be radioactive for thousands of years.

One of the most interesting perspectives I've read on the tragedy is here, where a guy describes his favorite motorcycle ride through the ghost town that is Prypiat, Ukraine, and - while describing the ride - also tells the story of what happened. It's a fascinating read about "a town where one can ride with no stoplights, no police, no danger to hit some cage or some dog." (A "cage" is a motorcyclist's term for a car.)

I can only hope that we as a species learn from what happened 20 years ago. Some mistakes will never be able to be undone, and although the Chernobyl reactor was entombed by hundreds of thousands of tons of concrete and sand, the protective enclosure was hastily built and is starting to fall apart. Work and funding are being sought to build another enclosure on top of the existing sarcophagus. With a litte more time on our hands (the original was built in 7 months following the accident) perhaps we can build an enclosure that will stand for longer - but not let us forget the double-edged sword that is nuclear power.

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