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Living and working in Chernobyl: Fascinating insight into the lives of those who work and live in the exclusion zone around the nuclear plant nearly 30 years after disaster that shook the world via Daily Mail

  • Almost 30 years on from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, almost 7,000 people are still working at the power plant
  • Some live inside the exclusion zone for up to 14 days at a time, while others commute in from nearby towns
  • Despite being outside the exclusion zone, levels of radiation in these towns is still up to 30 times higher than usual
  • Another 400 elderly people, mostly poor farmers and former plant workers, have resettled inside the exclusion zone 
[…]

Despite living outside the exclusion zone, these workers are still exposed to radiation levels 30 to 40 times higher than the typical background radiation. No studies have ever been conducted into the effects of long term radiation exposure, so nobody knows quite what this is doing to them. Higher instances of cancer and other diseases have been reported, but the villagers themselves get by on hearsay, rumour, and speculation.

While the exclusion zone itself is largely deserted, there are thought to be around 400 mostly elderly farmers who resettled in their old homes following the disaster, reluctant to leave after so many years spent in familiar surroundings. They scrape out desperate lives, subsisting off of the meagre pensions the government provides for being Chernobyl survivors.

Cancer rates are high, and alcoholism is rife. Viktor Gaidak, who worked at the Chernobyl plant for 28 years, was forced to sell virtually everything he owned in order to pay for treatment for colon cancer. Now his wife Lydia has also developed a tumour, but the couple have nothing left to sell to pay for her treatment.

[…]

But while most people fled the zone following the disaster, it has drawn in a morbidly-curious crowd of tourists, who come equipped with face masks and long-lens cameras to take pictures of the desolate and abandoned landscape.

As with so many things at Chernobyl, nobody quite knows how long it will be until the area is safe, however because of a particularly long-lived radioactive element that was used here, some scientists estimate that it could be 20,000 years before the area becomes habitable again.

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