How Long Till Chernobyl is Safe
If you are wondering if it’s safe to enter Chernobyl exclusion zone as a tourist, we suggest you checking out our article Is It Safe To Visit Chernobyl?. However, if your inquiry is if Chernobyl can be safe to live in, this is right place to clarify it.
It Was Admitted: Chernobyl Was Unsafe for Living
After the accident in 1986, the population was evacuated from the area. People were told that after some time they would come back. Later, more than 200 settlements which used to be homes for up to 300,000 people were marked as “abandoned”.
Soviet authorities really thought that evacuation would be temporary. People believed and hoped to come back soon and liquidators were making their best to decontaminate the area. Attempts to clean up the zone from radioactivity lasted for 12 years. In 1998, the last settlement, Poliske, was evacuated. Although being far from the power plant for more than 30 km, it was not safe to inhabit. After that, the struggle for bringing people back was postponed indefinitely.
Will Chernobyl Ever Be Safe?
Radioactivity in the zone is twice the norm in some places and hundred times more than normal in others. Because of the wind and natural processes of migration of the radionuclides, contamination in the zone is uneven. Today, ~0.1 μSv/h (microsievert per hour) can be seen on the Geiger counter when measuring the ground in the southern part of the zone. Levels on the ground in the central part start from 10 μSv/h, while the normal atmospheric level is ~0.2 μSv/h.
Nowadays, zone is mostly contaminated with cesium, strontium, americium and plutonium. Half-life (time it takes for one-half of the substance to disappear) of the first two is around 30 years. Half-life of americium – 432 years, while radioactive plutonium takes the longest – more than 24,000 years for the half of it to decay. So, how long is it till Chernobyl is safe? Scientists say, we have to wait for the time equal to five half-lives of each element; then, we can talk if it can be safe to go back to Chernobyl to live. Plutonium will make us waiting for more than 120,000 years.
Plutonium contaminates mostly 10km zone, while cesium and strontium were spread to the 30km one. Consequently, the inner part of the exclusion zone will remain uninhabited forever; the other part might start reviving in 150 years. However, proximity of the territories to each other and migration of radionuclides will prolong non-settlement there significantly. Forest fires, dust storms and even river flows obscure the answer to the question: What year will Chernobyl be safe to live in?
Live Permanently in Chernobyl Again: What Can Be Done For It?
Actually, there are some 130 people living in 30km zone. They came back to their houses after evacuation, although it was prohibited. Nowadays, the doctors and scientists make complete check of their health and products they consume a couple of times per year.
For bringing more people to inhabit contaminated area, we can wait for 120,000 years. However, radioactive elements seep deeper into the soil 1 cm/year. After all this time, the radionuclides will be too deep to control. In 1986, liquidators were packing contaminated soil from Pripyat into plastic sacks to store in burial sites. Today, we can do the same, but taking at least 34 cm of upper layer of the soil on 2,600 km². Unfortunately, this task is impossible to accomplish as long as area is too big and the costs of the project will be astronomical.
Instead of trying to clean up the area technically, it was given to the nature and funds are directed to the projects connected to the power plant, repository storage and natural reservation.