Above is Ukrainian photographer Igor Kostin’s grainy picture taken on the morning of April 26 1986 of the Soviet-era Chernobyl nuclear reactor. Within hours of the Chernobyl explosion, Kostin (27 December 1936 – 9 June 2015) and four other photographers flew over the nuclear power plant in a helicopter. The high radiation ruined all of his pictures except for one.
Kostin’s photograph of Chernobyl survived the intense radiation.
A series of explosions had destroyed Chernobyl’s reactor No. 4. Hundreds of staff and firefighters tackled a blaze that burned for 10 days and sent a plume of radiation around the world. More than 50 reactor and emergency workers were killed in the immediate aftermath.
May 1986: A helicopter decontaminates the disaster site.
Kostin continued to record stories of those affected by the disaster, including pictures of gigantic plants and malformed animals in the 30-mile exclusion zone. His 1998 photograph of a child in a special school for abandoned children in Belarus was nicknamed ‘the Chernobyl Child’. The child was adopted by a British family and endured many operations.
May 1986: In a 30km no-go zone around the reactor, liquidators measured radiation levels in fields using radiation counters. Their anti-chemical warfare suits offer no protection against radioactivity.
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May 1986: Following the evacuation of around 15,000 residents from Chernobyl on 5 May, 1986, liquidators washed radioactive dust off buildings and streets using “bourda” (molasses).
June 1986: Fish dead from radiation flounder by an artificial lake used to cool the Chernobyl plant that was used to cool the turbines.
September 1986: Liquidators clean the roof of reactor 3.
October 1986: Reactor 3
November 1986: Hans Blix (centre), director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, watches a video detailing the clean-up operations with members of a government commission.
January 1987: In Moscow, a liquidator is checked over by a after an operation
August 1987: Kopachi, a village 7km from the Chernobyl reactor, is flattened and buried
Summer 1987: Gigantism in plants
1988: Relatives at the funeral of radiation expert “roof cat” Alexander Goureïev, a liquidator who cleared the roof of reactor 3.
1988: ‘The Chernobyl Child’
1988: Jitomir, Ukraine.
August 1989: Demonstrations in Kyiv demand the public sees secret Chernobyl documents. “We demand a Nuremburg trial for Chernobyl.”
December 1989: Contaminated apples
1992: A villager in the no-go area continues to live off the land.
1992: The evacuated city of Pripyat, no longer home to the 47,000 inhabitants. it cannot be inhabited for another 24,000 years.
Summer 1991: Kostin reflected in the window of a control post at the entrance to Pripyat
12 October 1991: After a second explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power station on 11 October, 1991 in the turbine hall of reactor 2.
June 1992: Kostin in the machine room under reactor 4
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