Atop the list of phrases that strike fear into our collective psyche is nuclear meltdown. A nuclear meltdown is not complete without radioactive fallout, carried by the gentle breeze which sullies everything it blows by. The areas of land that are most contaminated by the radioactive fallout are referred to as exclusion zones. A person might image that exclusion zones are where luminescent people, animals with two heads, fish with arms, and land that glows fluorescent green reside. Thankfully, that is not the outcome of such a disaster. The real effects of radiation in exclusion zones are not at all akin to anything from a science fiction movie.
On a seemingly ordinary April night in 1986, the colorful town of Chernobyl, Ukraine and all that surrounded it, was about to be painted black. Something cataclysmic was about to happen, an experimental test at the Chernobyl nuclear power station was about to go severely wrong. Inexperienced plant operators circumvented security measures prior to the exercise, which made it possible for an unforeseen steam explosion to compromise the reactor vessel. The fire that resulted from the explosion burned for 10 days, discharging radioactive debris into the sky, which consequently contaminated nearly sixty square miles of land in Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine. (United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation)
Consequently, approximately 200,000 people were evacuated from their homes, and an exclusion zone with a radius of 19 miles was established. Shortly after evacuating the 33,000 citizens of Pripyat, Ukraine in 1986, nearly 1,200 of them illegally returned to their homes in the exclusion zone. Some not willing to start life over in the city, others refused to leave the past behind. For others it is economic issue, they simply do not possess the means to reestablish their lives elsewhere. (Morris) these settlers, as they are referred to by local government and the general public, are willing to live with radiation risks, and poverty, in order to die where they have lived their entire lives prior to the Chernobyl disaster.
These settlers face more than one challenge in ensuring their survival. Chernobyl’s soil, water, and air are ranked most contaminated on the planet. The crops that are grown there are contaminated with radioactive strontium, iodine, and cesium. When a faucet is turned on, cool, crisp water does not come flowing out. And lest we forget, the hundreds of unmarked, uncharted, and unrealized piles of irradiated machinery, and debris from the disaster cleanup sprinkled all over the zone. Saving the best for last, spent nuclear fuel rods are sent to the exclusion zone as a final resting place. (Morris)
Since the disaster, the effects the radiation has had on the population in the exclusion zone, and the rest of the areas affected are heavily debated, and hard to quantify. Scott Davis, an epidemiologist at Washington University stated in an interview with Cable News...