Pripyat in northern Ukraine was a young and promising town. Established in 1970 it had all the markers of a great place to raise a family by Soviet standards – schools, recreation center, swimming pool, hospital and gainful employment at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant.

There was even an amusement park that was due to open. Already a ferris wheel, bumper cars, and merry go round were in place causing a giddy feeling of anticipation for the thousands of children and families.

But on 26 April 1986 disaster struck, and in the following days the entire city of about 50,000 was evacuated.

A crucifix at the entrance of Pripyat. The town is now a guarded area and entry is via checkpoint. The crucifix is a homage to those who perished and those who were forced to leave.

The ferris wheel at the Pripyat Amusement Park.

Fast-forward 25 years and to the other side of the world is the town of Namie in Fukushima Prefecture, Japan. With a population of almost 20,000 its economy was dependent on commercial fishing, agriculture and food processing.

On March 11 2011, a 9.0 magnitude earthquake followed by a tsunami rocked the entire prefecture, causing theFukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. Three reactors at the power plant, owned by Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) went into meltdown, contaminating everything within at least a 20km radius and beyond.

Like Pripyat, Namie was immediately abandoned. It was just 5-15 km north of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant..

An abandoned convenience store in Namie and Japan’s famed vending machines with sake and other products, blocked off by tape.

The lives of the people living in those towns, and all around Chernobyl and Fukushima, have been changed forever. Both of these nuclear accidents have put populations at both physical and mental harm, permanently displaced large populations, torn apart community relationships, and left survivors stressed by their chronic exposure to radiation.

Decontamination efforts have yielded fruitless results. Almost 30 years after the Chernobyl accident, 10,000 square kilometres are still unusable and 5 million people in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia still live in contaminated areas. Similarly, tests by Greenpeace Japan show that radiation in the restricted areas of Fukushima is still high. Decontamination doesn’t get rid of radioactive contamination; it simply moves it to another location and community.

A Greenpeace Japan radiation specialist investigates radioactive contamination at a farm in the district of Namie (Feb 2016)

Greenpeace Russia takes samples of mushrooms and berries in a forest in the Bryansk region, Russia (Sept 2015)

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