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The Polesie State Radioecological Reserve (1988-) - Nature Reserve in Southeastern Belarus


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"Because the winds were blowing to the northwest that day."

Continuing Al Dente's quest for the remote, mysterious and dangerous parts of our world, I'd like to add the Polesie State Radioecological Reserve to the list.

In 1986, the main reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant experienced a full meltdown, and the U.S.S.R. covered up the incident for as long as they could - several days - until one day, in *Sweden* of all places, nuclear-plant workers began setting off dosimeters - meters that read how much radioactivity is on your body and clothing - sort of like when you step through a metal detector - started showing abnormally high readings. Workers at Forsmark, a nuclear power plant a couple hours north of Stockholm, began setting off these detectors, and naturally, all attention turned towards Forsmark itself. When nobody could find anything wrong, people began suspecting a nuclear bomb went off somewhere in Europe, but there were no reports; eventually - within a matter of days - the trail led to Chernobyl, and the U.S.S.R. government had no choice but to end their cover-up and admit that the worst-possible situation had occurred: Chernobyl's core reactor had experienced full meltdown. Yes, it is the *Swedes* we have to thank for alerting to the world to Chernobyl!

How could this be, when Forsmark was over 2,500 kilometers away from the accident? And nothing at all was reported, or even detected, in Kiev, which was less than 150 kilometers away from the disaster?

"Because the winds were blowing to the northwest that day."

Other than at Chernobyl itself, where a relatively small number of people quickly died of radioactive burns, there weren't any immediate symptoms - the skies were blue, the birds were singing, the animals were being animals, and everything looked and seemed normal, except for this strange, unearthly light coming from the center of the reactor. and the Soviet men working on the ceiling - "liquidators" they were called - bore the brunt of it, and many died quickly - but what was yet to come was an invisible, silent killer. Instead of dying quickly from nuclear burns, people began dying more slowly of radiation sickness, and it occurred in a much larger perimeter - miles and miles in diameter, instead of immediately on the rooftop of the reactor.  I will soon be reporting on a book about the Chernobyl nuclear plant disaster - an important book, a book that everyone should read. But for now, I'm here to discuss the Polesie State Radioecological Reserve - a park immediately to the northwest of Chernobyl, just beyond the village of Pripyat (which got hit the hardest), and across the border into Belarus. Many people think Chernobyl is in Belarus, but it's actually in northern Ukraine (see the town at the northern end of the Dniepper River? And see how close Kiev is down on the southern end?) This map also shows that the Reserve is almost all inside of Belarus - because the winds were blowing to the northwest that day.

The Reserve - acting as a buffer between the population and Chernobyl - was founded in 1988, two years after the explosion, and is not all that large: less than 40 square kilometers. Ironically, due to the virtual absence of humans, both flora and fauna are developing in beautiful and encouraging ways that has caught the attention of biologists. Nevertheless, if a human were to live there for an extended period of time, radiation sickness or related conditions would occur, just as they'll be occurring for tens of thousands of years. Sadly, that is not a typo, and yes, the flora and fauna have shown signs of nuclear contamination, but you cannot stop birds from flying unless you kill them all, and believe me, an early effort was made to shoot *all* animals within proximity of the plant.

This surely qualifies as being one of the most mysterious and dangerous places on earth, even though it's unfortunately not one of the most remote.

Here is their official website. 

If this hasn't jogged your memory about the nuclear plant being struck by the 2011 tsunami in northern Japan, it probably should. Sushi lovers have conveniently put things out of their minds, but they must be out of their minds, so to speak.

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