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Explorer offers rare insight into radioactive corridors of Chernobyl power plant

Arkadiusz Podniesiński, 48, has been documenting the effects of the disaster since 2008 and has now gained exclusive access inside the sarcophagus, built over the ruins of the damaged Reactor 4

Nuclear symbols are located all throughout the plant

These fascinating images offer a rare insight into the radioactive corridors of the power plant at Chernobyl – the site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster.

An experiment designed to test the safety of the Ukrainian facility went drastically wrong in April 1986, officially costing the lives of 31 people.

But some experts believe the effects of the radiation emitted by the blast could mean thousands more deaths were attributed to the tragedy.

The impressive images were taken by Polish photographer Arkadiusz Podniesiński, 48, during a two-day visit to the infamous site in March 2021.

He has been documenting the effects of the Chernobyl disaster since 2008, focusing on the continual problems associated with radioactive contamination of the environment.

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The old sarcophagus
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Image:

Mediadrumimages/Arkadiusz Podnie)




Arkadiusz gained exclusive access inside the power plant, which included a rare tour inside the plant’s sarcophagus, built over the ruins of the damaged Reactor 4 to reduce the radioactive contamination emitted after the disaster.

“When the Chernobyl disaster occurred in 1986, I was 14 years old and a student in primary school,” he said.

“From that time, I remember the unusual agitation and the terrible taste of Lugol’s iodine, which was supposed to protect my body against absorbing radioactive iodine isotopes.



The exterior of one of the administrative buildings
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Image:

Mediadrumimages/Arkadiusz Podnie)




“These events shaped my later interests and led me to think about the consequences of such catastrophes.

“When I got the opportunity to visit the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone thirteen years ago, I immediately set out for Kiev and then straight to the closed zone in order to see with my eyes how severe the disaster was.

“What I saw there changed my life forever and gave me the push to start documenting the tragic effects of the disaster.



Operating one of the control panels
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Image:

Mediadrumimages/Arkadiusz Podnie)




“When I found out that I was granted exclusive access to the power plant, especially a rare tour inside the sarcophagus I was very excited.

“I felt great satisfaction at being one of the few photographers in the world able to visit this place.

“In the abandoned buildings, you can easily find old photographs, books, magazines, rare posters featuring Lenin, communist symbols and propaganda slogans.



Nuclear waste storage drums
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Image:

Mediadrumimages/Arkadiusz Podnie)




“Most come from the years 1986-1990, the period of cleaning up the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster. They depict employees standing in front of the newly built sarcophagus, traveling to work by bus, or living on floating barges.

“Images like these are extremely important historical documents, thanks to which we can not only learn a lot about the liquidators and their work, but also about the everyday life they tried to lead in those difficult times.

“As time passes, such photographs become even more valuable because not only do they set words and images in stone, but they also serve as a way to remember the disaster.









“To some, these objects might appear useless or meaningless; to others, they are valuable artefacts recalling the times when this plant produced electricity.”

When the reactor exploded it caused a fire, which spewed radiation for 10 days – forcing more than 100,000 people to be evacuated.

A 20-mile exclusion zone was then imposed around the damaged reactor, which was later expanded to cover more affected areas.



Stairs leading to all levels of the old sarcophagus
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Image:

Mediadrumimages/Arkadiusz Podnie)




The original evacuation of Chernobyl was only supposed to last for three days but it never ended, so most of the belongings the people who fled left behind could not be recovered.

Arkadiusz, who has also visited the site of the nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan, said he documents the locations so that people don’t forget what has happened.

He said: “I would like to convey that despite the fact that nuclear catastrophes like Chernobyl in 1986 and Fukushima in 2011 are very rare and the likelihood of them occurring is infinitely small, when they happen, the political, economic and human costs can be too high for society to absorb.



The fuel assemblies
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Image:

Mediadrumimages/Arkadiusz Podnie)




“Forgetting Chernobyl and Fukushima makes it more likely that a nuclear disaster could happen elsewhere.

“My aim is to help people fully understand the scale and severity of the Chernobyl (and Fukushima) disaster and draw their own conclusions – without the influence of sensationalist media, reports by scientists creating illusion of correctness, nuclear energy lobbyists, or anti-nuclear activists – concerning the wisdom and future of nuclear energy.”

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