After Chernobyl

KIEV: Chernobyl, the world’s most notorious nuclear power plant, will be shut down today, fourteen years after it spewed clouds of radioactive dust into the atmosphere. Back then, Ukraine became the focus of global attention, but Ukrainians learned of the disaster much later than the rest of the world. I recall that fateful Saturday afternoon with utter clarity, strolling through Kiev with my six-year-old daughter, oblivious to the danger.

Chernobyl changed Ukraine forever, and was a catalyst for the downfall of the Soviet Union. Ultimately, Chernobyl changed the world. Now that Chernobyl will be permanently shut down, world attention again turns to Ukraine, this time in hope, not fear.

Shutting down a vital source of electrical energy, which Chernobyl remains, is no an easy task, particularly with winter upon us. Ukraine’s energy infrastructure is weak; losing 8-10% of our electricity production and $100 million in revenues will strain the system even more.

We also bear the responsibilities involved in laying off Chernobyl’s workers and depriving the adjacent city of Slavutych (population 28,000), of its main source of income. Moreover, we must continue dealing with the technical and ecological issues surrounding the Chernobyl sarcophagus, as well as maintain nuclear safety in the remaining nuclear plants in operation in Ukraine, including what is left of Chernobyl.