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  • Entrance to the restricted zone, Chernobyl

  • Radioactive Childrens Playground

  • City of Pripyat

  • Reator #4

On the 26th April 1986, the Chernobyl Nuclear Reactor near Pripyat in the Ukraine experienced a meltdown. Reactor 4 suffered a massive, catastrophic power excursion.

This caused a steam explosion, followed by a second explosion from the ignition of generated hydrogen mixed with air, which tore the top from the reactor and its building and exposed the reactor core. This dispersed large amounts of radioactive particulate and gaseous debris containing fission products including caesium-137, strontium-90, and other highly radioactive reactor waste products.

The town of Pripyat was worst hit, being a few miles away from the reactor. Survivor accounts reported seeing the explosion and whilst looking through the glass of their apartment block, experiencing a tingling feeling on their face and body. The city of Pripyat was not immediately evacuated. During the night of 26–27 April—more than 24 hours after the explosion—the committee, faced with ample evidence of extremely high levels of radiation and a number of cases of radiation exposure, had to acknowledge the destruction of the reactor and order the evacuation of Pripyat.

The evacuation began at 2 p.m. on 27 April. To reduce baggage, the residents were told the evacuation would be temporary, lasting approximately three days.

As a result, Pripyat still contains personal belongings. An exclusion zone of 30 km (19 mi) remains in place today.

These images were shot during the 20th Anniversary of the disaster.