Huge reservoir, which used to be the biggest artificial one in Ukraine, was built to cool down the water for four reactors of Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Chernobyl cooling pond’s construction was pretty simple. The water was pumped in from the river Prypiat. Apart from its direct purpose, it was used for fishing farm and a lot of animals, in particular birds, found their home there.
Chernobyl Cooling Pond and the Accident of 1986
After the explosion, the smallest particles were dispersed to lake’s surface. Water which firefighters poured on the ruins of the fourth unit gathered in suppression pool under the reactor. There was a danger: melted fuel could crack cement floor and make its way to the pool. If it had happen, another explosion would have been set in motion. There was a task to empty the suppression pool. Divers were draining water into Chernobyl cooling pond. So, 5,000 m³ of water from the pool carried radioactive particles into the reservoir. In addition, after cleaning its banks, contaminated soil was placed in the reservoir as well.
In order to decontaminate it, the bottom had to be cleaned; however, no such work was done. Liquidators built additional dams to prevent contaminated water entering Prypiat River; so that the spreading of radioactive particles could be slowed down.
The reservoir continued being in active use for 14 years after the accident. In December 2000, third unit of the power plant was shut down and there was no more need to maintain such a big lake.
Chernobyl Cooling Pond and Nuclear Power Plant Today
When the workers stopped pumping water from the river in, the lake started draining. Before the accident, depth of Chernobyl cooling pond went up to 20 meters, but now it is impossible to find such a deep spot there. The highest points of the bottom dried up and became covered with greenery, including trees and bushes. Some parts are still with water, but the reservoir resembles a couple of puddles rather than a lake. On the other hand, it became perfect place for birds’ nesting.
Until 2008, scientific laboratory had its base there to study the fish and the effect of radiation on it. In 2014, another project aimed to clean up the surface of the lake from the most radioactive materials was created.
The visitors are able to see the remains of the reservoir when driving along Chernobyl power plant. Broader view is available in multiple day tours.