The Chernobyl Disaster
The Chernobyl disaster was a nuclear accident that occurred on April 26, 1986. It is considered the worst nuclear power plant accident in history. A Russian publication concludes that 985,000 excess cancers occurred between 1986 and 2004 as a result of radioactive contamination. The 2011 report of the European Committee on Radiation Risk calculates a total of 1.4 million excess cancers occurred as a result of this contamination.
Though the area immediately around the Chernobyl disaster may not be safe for human life for thousands of years, the "Exclusion Zone" around the Chernobyl nuclear power station has become a haven for wildlife. As humans were evacuated from the area after the disaster, existing animal populations multiplied and rare species not seen for centuries have returned or have been reintroduced, including the lynx, wild boar, wolf, Eurasian brown bear, European bison, Przewalski's horse, and eagle owl. The Exclusion Zone is so lush with wildlife and greenery that in 2007 the Ukrainian government designated it a wildlife sanctuary. It is now one of the largest wildlife sanctuaries in Europe.