Amid Chernobyl's Ruins, One Thing of Value Remains
Sunshine is about the only thing safe to export from the exclusion zone
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 30, 2016 11:30 AM CDT
This June 8, 2011 photo shows a Soviet emblem atop an apartment building in the deserted town of Pripyat, Ukraine, some 3 kilometers (1.86 miles) from the Chernobyl nuclear plant. Chernobyl and Fukushima...   (AP Photo/Sergey Ponomarev)

(Newser) – If anything, the land in the 1,000-square-mile exclusion zone left largely untouched since the Chernobyl disaster of 1986 is cheap. After all, studies suggest it won't be inhabitable until the year 4986, reported McClatchy DC in April, and pretty much nothing can be harvested from it. But now Ostap Semerak, Ukraine's environment minister, is drumming up foreign interest in solar power projects across the wasteland, which he says is uniquely, if a bit ironically, suited to renewables, reports Bloomberg. PV Magazine reports that Igor Gramotkin, today the general director of the Chernobyl plant, in April pointed out that "land and transmission line connection" are the most expensive elements of a solar undertaking.

Lucky then, that "we already have high-voltage transmission lines that were previously used for the nuclear stations," says Semerak. "And we have many people trained to work at power plants" (thousands still work at Chernobyl). Plus there's all that inexpensive land. Ukraine's interest in renewables is partly politically motivated given the fragile cease-fire with Kremlin-backed rebels near the Russian border, not to mention increasing friction with the Putin camp over natural gas bills. Semerak says four energy companies from Canada and two investment firms from the US have expressed interest in a solar complex at the Chernobyl site, while Ukrainian developers intend to install panels there before 2016 is through. (Apparently human habitation is worse for wildlife than radiation, according to this exclusion-zone activity.)