UWTSD students to visit Chernobyl to study the impact of the disaster on the environment


A group of students at University of Wales Trinity Saint David are travelling to Chernobyl on September 9 to study the effects of the accident on the environment – 30 years on.

The seven students, all members of the University’s Environment Society and studying BSc Environmental Conservation, are heading out to Chernobyl’s Exclusion Zone, a 1,000 square mile area around Chernobyl Nuclear Reactor. After the 1986 meltdown, the area was evacuated owing to its radiation levels and barring the occasional resident too determined to leave – it has been almost entirely empty of human life since. The disaster created a huge ecological and social scar, and to date, the radiation remains at 10 to 100 times the normal background levels.

“We studied the negative impacts we can have on the environment on our course,” said Chris Beynon, one of the students. “Arguably, there’s no bigger example of human harm than Chernobyl. But I find it fascinating that, despite the predictions that nothing would survive, nature found a way to flourish.”

And flourish, it has. Since the Zone was declared 30 years ago, this year, wildlife has rebounded without human interference. Scientists have recorded burgeoning populations of moose, European bison and wild boar and have even caught images of wolves and bears on camera traps; both thought to have been lost from Eastern Europe. There are reports of catfish that have grown to six feet or more, weighing 350kg. In fact the area has recovered so well, that in 2007, the Ukrainian Government designated the Zone a nature reserve.

“It is ironic,” agrees student Elanor Alun. “I expect it will be a humbling experience for us to realise that, as it turns out, having your DNA altered at a molecular level is less dangerous than living within 1000 miles of humans. I think it is excellent evidence of nature’s ability to recover as long as it’s given a chance. With modern climate change predictions and the like, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that everything is hopeless – but, clearly it’s not.”

Fellow student Natalie Jordan added: “Now is really the last chance we are likely to get – because of the vegetation growing so well, the paths will be grown over soon. And because they are radioactive, they can’t be cut back.”

Dylan Harris said: “I’m hoping it will give me a better understanding of the stewardship we have for the environment. Plus, it’s a good understanding  -  however unintentional  - of ‘rewilding’ an area with the reintroductions of wolves etc. I find that an interesting potential avenue of wildlife management, here in the UK as well as elsewhere.”

There will also be an important social aspect to the trip, with a chance to meet the babushkas of Chernobyl, the old women who refused to leave their homes in the Exclusion Zone.

The students will travel from Kiev to the ghost town of Pripyat and its surrounding countryside within the Zone.

Note to Editor

Rebecca Davies

Executive Press and Media Relations Officer

Corporate Communications and PR
Mobile: 07872 423 788
Email: Rebecca.Davies@uwtsd.ac.uk