On April 26, 1986, technicians at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Pripyat, Ukraine, accidentally detonated one of its nuclear reactors when it suffered a dramatic power increase. Thirty-one people were killed in the initial blast, and countless others suffered radiation poisoning. The radiation was such that some workers on-site were hit with lethal levels within a minute. The material spread inexorably across the Europe and the then-Soviet Union, and toxic nuclear waste is still leaking from the disaster site to this day.
The area is still inhabited, and Chernobyl still employs workers. The first three reactors (only the fourth exploded) remain operational, though they’re undergoing a decades-long process of being decommissioned.
Sometime next year, a structure called the “New Safe Confinement” will be placed over the fourth reactor in an effort to contain the leaking radiation.
Here are 30 images from the plant today, the 30th anniversary of the accident.
1. A man is screened for radiation as part of his application for a job at the power plant earlier this month. The Chernobyl plant still has around 3,000 employees.
2. The surrounding region is still populated.
3. With no one to hunt them or encroach on their habitat, wildlife thrives in Chernobyl.
4. Anatoliy Koliadyn, 66, was one of the “liquidators” — someone who tried to contain the radiation in the moments after the accident. He now suffers from a string of radiation-related illnesses.
5. Firefighters were the first to respond to the disaster.
6. Przewalski’s Horses are among the many species to have taken over the site.
7. Vladimir Barabanov, 64, helped decontaminate reactor number three; he and two colleagues are shown standing on top of it in the photo.
8. Portuguese painter and muralist Pantonio commemorates the disaster.
9. Multiple schools were abandoned in the wake of the accident.
10. This building houses what’s left of reactor number four, which exploded in the catastrophe.
11. Chernobyl’s “New Safe Confinement” shelter is being constructed next to the disaster site. When complete, it will be placed over the damaged reactor to contain leaking radioactive material.
12. Workers in reactor number two in September of 2015. The first three reactors are currently being decommissioned.
13. Graffiti covers abandoned structures in the disaster site.
14. Civilians weren’t evacuated until 36 hours after the initial explosions.
15. This was the safety precaution information for employees of the former nuclear power plant.
16. The Nadesha (“hope”) rehabilitation center treats children in the contaminated areas.
17. People were initially told they could return three days after evacuating — this discouraged them from bringing too many contaminated belongings.
18. The building that houses the remains of the exploded reactor number four.
19. Yulia, 23, lives in a nearby town built to house evacuees.
20. The “New Safe Confinement” is meant to last the next 100 years.
21 This employee is in a Chernobyl corridor close to the first two reactors.
22. Civilian explorers call themselves “the stalkers.”
23. Visitors look at a cooling water pump, one of eight on-site.
24. The “New Safe Confinement” structure has a price tag of $2.3 billion.
25. Discarded gas masks litter the site of the explosion.
26. A crucifix stands at the border of Pripyat.
27. The “New Safe Confinement” is scheduled for installation in 2017.
28. Last year the Ukrainian government canceled the lunch program for 350,000 children due to lack of funds.
29. What used to be an events hall, photographed earlier this month.
30. A mural commemorating the disaster. Storks are the Ukrainian national bird.