The longevity of the babushkas who stayed put

Holly Morris on the women who prefer to brave radiation rather than leave their homes

The World Today
Published 23 March 2016 Updated 30 November 2020 3 minute READ

Holly Morris

Her award-winning documentary, The Babushkas of Chernobyl, is being released across Europe this spring

April 26, 2016 will mark the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident in Ukraine. The plant’s Reactor No 4 blew up after a cooling capability test, and the resulting nuclear fire lasted for ten days, spewing out 400 times as much radiation as the bomb dropped on Hiroshima; to date, it is the world’s worst nuclear accident. Fukushima, of course, is still playing out – but so is Chernobyl.

Today Reactor No 4 simmers under its sarcophagus, a concrete cover hastily built immediately after the accident, now cracked, rusted and leaking radiation. A partial collapse of the sarcophagus in 2013 sent reverberations of fear around the globe. A more significant collapse could jettison radioactive dust into the atmosphere, where it could spread for hundreds or thousands of miles.

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