Photovoltaic panels installed on the solar power plant
installed in Chernobyl (Ukraine), December 12, 2017
Workers in orange vests are busy around anthracite panels:
Ukraine is preparing to launch its first solar power station in
the area contaminated by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, to
revive this abandoned territory.
With a relatively symbolic power of one megawatt, the power
station is located only a hundred meters from the new
„sarcophagus“ in waterproof steel that covers the remains of
the accident reactor of Chernobyl, theater in 1986 the worst
nuclear accident in history .
Such a power station can cover the consumption of about
2,000 households living in apartments, explains to AFP Evguen
Variaguine, director of the Ukrainian-German company Solar
Chernobyl who carried out this project.
The group spent a million euros in this structure of about
3,800 photovoltaic panels installed on 1.6 hectares, double the
lawn of a football stadium. He hopes to make the project
profitable within seven years.
From this unit to be inaugurated in the coming weeks, the
group plans to reach a total of 100 megawatts in the area where
the level of sunshine „is the same as in the south of Germany“,
stresses Mr. Variagine.
Ukraine is seeking to develop its own energy production
after the sudden cessation of its purchases of Russian gas in
full tension between Moscow and Kiev. It also wants to give a
second life to the exclusion zone of Chernobyl which surrounds
within a radius of 30 kilometers the hilly nuclear power plant,
a hundred kilometers north of Kiev, near the Belarusian
– Contaminated soil –
The Chernobyl No. 4 reactor exploded on April 26, 1986,
contaminating, according to some estimates, up to three
quarters of Europe.
A worker installs photovoltaic panels at the Chernobyl
Solar Power Plant (Ukraine) on December 12, 2017
After this disaster, the Soviet authorities evacuated
hundreds of thousands of people and a vast territory, covering
more than 2,000 square kilometers, remained abandoned.
Three other reactors of the plant continued to operate after
the tragedy but the last one was closed in 2000, marking the
end of all industrial activity in Chernobyl.
Man will not be able to return to live in this zone „for
another 24,000 years“ but a cautious industrial exploitation
becomes possible, say the Ukrainian authorities.
„This territory obviously can not be used for agriculture,
but it is quite suitable for innovative and scientific
projects,“ assured AFP in 2016 the Ukrainian Minister of
Environment Ostap Semerak.
The installation at the end of 2016 of a gigantic waterproof
screed above the ruins of the damaged reactor contributed to
the realization of the project.
Funded by the international community, the new dome covered
the old „sarcophagus“ in concrete, cracked and unstable, and
allowed to better isolate the highly radioactive magma remained
in the reactor. As a result, the radioactivity rate in the
vicinity of the plant has been reduced by ten in one year,
according to official estimates.
Care is still needed: solar Chernobyl photovoltaic panel
supports are not planted directly in the contaminated soil, but
are fixed on concrete bases placed on the ground.
„We can not drill or dig here because of the safety rules,“
– Corruption and security –
The consortium that employs it has already built in 2016 a
solar plant of just over four megawatts in the irradiated area
in neighboring Belarus, several tens of kilometers from
Workers set up equipment at the megawatt nuclear power
plant in Thernobyl, Ukraine, December 12, 2017
On the Ukrainian side, the authorities have made available
nearly 2,500 hectares for such projects. They have already
received sixty proposals from foreign groups – Danish,
American, Chinese, French – according to Olena Kovalchuk,
spokesman for the local administration.
Encouragingly, Kiev buys solar energy at a rate that
„exceeds on average 50% that applied in Europe,“ says Oleksandr
Khartchenko, executive director of the Kiev Center for Energy
The rush of Western investors to Chernobyl is however not
for tomorrow, warns the expert, given the weight of bureaucracy
and corruption endemic in Ukraine.
„It is very important to have
guarantees that work in the Chernobyl area will be safe,“ warns
Anton Oussov, advisor of the European Bank for Reconstruction
and Development (Berd), which does not provide for moment no
investment in this area in Ukraine.