Twenty years on from the world’s worst environmental catastrophe, John Woodcock revisits the still-poisonous landscapes of Ukraine and Belarus. But as Britain debates whether to build a new generation of nuclear power stations, are we forgetting the terrifying lessons of 26 April 1986? Tourism does not come more chilling than in the visitor centre at the remains of the Chernobyl nuclear power station. The view from the window is hypnotic in its awfulness. It overlooks what appears to be an unremarkable industrial complex, dominated by a red-and-white striped chimney stack wrapped in a steel frame. Pop music blaring from a radio somewhere within the site adds to a sense of normality that is misleading, shockingly so. The surrealism of disco sounds in such a place is reinforced by the centre’s ominous exhibits. They are dominated by a large model of what cannot be seen from the window. It represents the inside of the wrecked Reactor No 4. Tiny figures in white protective suits are placed among the mock debris, replicating those who today, only a few hundred yards away, perform the most dangerous tasks imaginable. Beside the display, a video relates what happened at the plant 20 […]

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