Photographer Documents Chernobyl's Decay

Twenty-five years after a test went wrong in a control room of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, causing an explosion that destroyed Reactor 4's containment dome and triggering a serious radiation leak, National Geographic photographer Gerd Ludwig has gone inside the Exclusion Zone to document what has happened to the site. He also has photographed some residents who returned years after they were evacuated.

Debate persists about how much radiation was released during the worst accident in the history of nuclear power, which occurred on April 26, 1986. Pripyat, a nearby city where employees of the plant lived, remains abandoned, and Ludwig’s photos show how vegetation is taking over a classroom there. Residents left so quickly that family photographs and mementos are still in some homes.

Belarus, Ukraine – where the plant is located – and Russia are the three countries most affected by the radiation, according to, an information site maintained by the United Nations Development Programme. The site links to many reports and resources, including a September 2005 report written by specialists from seven UN organizations that estimated the accident will cause approximately 4,000 deaths because of thyroid cancers resulting from the radiation and numerous interviews conducted in 2007, the 20th anniversary of the accident.

Ludwig is posting photographs and details of his project at and maintains Twitter and Facebook sites about it. A dozen of his photos also were featured on The Huffington Post site Feb. 2.

Posted by Jerry Laws on Feb 02, 2011

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