Gone Fission: Chernobyl’s Cooling Pond Fish Farm

Gone Fission: Chernobyl’s Cooling Pond Fish Farm
Now abandoned, a fish farm and (later) a radiological research project once existed in and alongside one of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor's cooling ponds.

Old McDonetsk Had a Farm

Gone Fission: Chernobyl’s Cooling Pond Fish Farm(images via: Jennifer Boyer and NASA Earth Observatory)

Being situated inland, the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant depended upon local rivers and a 22 sq/km (8.5 sq/mi) man-made cooling pond. The pond built adjacent to and connecting with the Pripyat River and the Kiev Reservoir was 18m (59 ft) deep and, due to its prime use, warmer than any natural lake in the region. Obviously such a resource should not have been wasted and thus, a commercial fish farm was established.

Gone Fission: Chernobyl’s Cooling Pond Fish Farm(image via: Maxim Nikitka-Mirovich)

Things were going swimmingly (unless you knew the source of your fresh, farm-raised fish) until April 26th, 1986, when Reactor #4 exploded during the course of an ill-advised test. Radioactive fallout spread over significant portions of Europe and the cooling pond, just 1.5 km (just under a mile) from the reactor complex, was showered in radionuclides. This probably wasn't good for business at the fish farm, and to their credit Soviet authorities shut it down… but it wasn't abandoned.

Gone Fission: Chernobyl’s Cooling Pond Fish Farm(images via: English Russia and vornaskotti)

Almost immediately after the initial cleanup from the disaster was completed, a long-term radiological study of the local environment – specifically the fish and other organisms in the cooling pond – commenced. The study ran until 1996, outliving the USSR itself, and provided useful information on how vertebrates are affected by radiation in their environment over time.

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