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Greetings comrades, you too may have been gripped by dramatisation of the Chernobyl disaster from Sky and HBO. It should be forgiven artistic licence in exchange for its topical warning about the risks of misinformation. I remember the images of the disaster vividly, from the news coverage to our science teacher showing us the increased radiation he'd detected. So suit up, take your iodine tablets and fire up your dosimeters: this week we're heading into the Exclusion Zone.
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AFTER CHERNOBYL: Although you'd never wish for it, the thousand-square-mile exclusion zone around the world's worst nuclear accident has become a unique habitat, and by no means abandoned. Aside from the construction of the New Safe Confinement shield and a one-megawatt photovoltaic array, tens of thousands of tourists visit the abandoned cities every year, and poverty and conflict have forced some people to move back.

The Exclusion Zone is, by some measures, a natural paradise. With the human population evacuated, some natural species have been able to expand and thrive faster than the radiation exposure could pick them off. Significant populations of wild horses, foxes, birds, wolves and even bison now call this place home, with static camera traps giving us an occasional glance. Some abandoned pets also formed their own canine community.

The fallout isn't distributed evenly across the Zone, but rather concentrated into hotspots. There are some places where exposure to radiation is lower than it would be travelling there. It may now be time to start thinking about whether some parts of the Exclusion Zone should be repopulated.

There's no sweetening it: nuclear power is evocative. One of my favourite photographers, Greg White, has taken an exquisite account of life around the NSC construction in contrast to the abandoned city of Pripyat. 🚧
πŸ—ž In the former Soviet Union, old press habits die hard, especially on environmental issues: spreading 'fake news' on social channels combined with a lack of understanding in environmental science amongst journalists mean important messages don't reach the public.

πŸš€ Tracking Down JoAnn Morgan, a Semi-Hidden Figure of U.S. Space History: only one woman was in the control room at the launch of Apollo 11. JoAnn Morgan was the first woman permitted inside the firing room during an Apollo launch.

🎸 Lenny Kravitz shows us around his Brazilian farm compound on horseback, because of course he does. I meant to include this previously, but somehow it got missed. As a teen I desperately wanted to be Lenny Kravitz. Then I realised just how unattainable that would be. Now I'm coming around again.

πŸ‘¨β€πŸ‘©β€πŸ‘§β€πŸ‘§ We need to talk about how population growth is harming the planet: the New Scientist asserts that discussing population has been off limits, but now scientists and conservationists are challenging the taboo.

🎧  Loving The Music You Didn't Grow Up With: before ubiquitous streaming, music tastes used to revolve around the albums, songs, and artists of one's youth. No longer.

πŸ€– IKEA launches robotic furniture for small space living. This is interesting. As homes get smaller, furniture needs a rethink. Instead of shrinking the furniture, this approach lets it transform based on whichever function is needed at any given time.
The nuclear option: Back in the UK, Greg White also shot inside the nuclear power station in Hartlepool as well as extraordinary images of nuclear waste awaiting removal from the decommissioned Trawsfynydd nuclear power station. (More of my favourite photographers next week.) Trawsfynydd closed 28 years ago, yet is less than a third through its decommissioning.

As we attempt to reconcile our growing energy appetite against our heightened need to end fossil fuel consumption, debates about the role of nuclear power are inevitable. Some say nuclear power has no place in a time of climate change, while others say it shouldn't be ruled out of our plans for clean energy.

In the Fifties there was some symbiosis between defence and power generation, but as nuclear deterrence looks more like ideology than theory this argument gets harder to make. The long decommissioning requirements plus the exceptional complications of preventing disasters and safely managing waste continue to distort the economics. It isn't something you can hand to the lowest bidder and hope for the best.

In 2011, as the Fukushima Daiichi disaster was unfolding in Japan, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon was reflected upon his own recent visit to Chernobyl. These disasters should have long legacies: the impressions they leave should be indelible. ☒️
Finally: 7 Things The Simpsons Got Wrong About Nuclear from the US Office of Nuclear Energy. This is much funnier than they intend. "While there are countless other examples we could point out, we do recognize that this show is a parody with the intent to entertain"... didn't stop you pointing these seven out though 🀯

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