On this day 35 years ago, reactor number 4 at Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant (CNPP) exploded releasing millions of becquerels of radioactive isotopes into the atmosphere and as a result, contaminating most of eastern Europe. It is still the worst nuclear disaster to ever take place in the history of humankind, scoring level 7 on the International Nuclear Event Scale. Although officially Chernobyl killed 31 people, many unofficial sources claim that the death toll is much higher, possibly reaching even tens of thousands.
Today, 35 years later, most of the radioactive isotopes have decayed but some such as Strontium 90 or Caesium 137 are still present in large amounts.
Radioactive isotopes are dangerous not strictly because they are radioactive, in fact, external radiation is not such a big issue. The reason why they are dangerous is that they are being picked up from the ground by the plants which we later consume and as a result, we also ingest these radioactive isotopes into our bodies which then irradiate us from the inside. Internal radiation is much more dangerous because once radioactive particles get inside of your body, it is near impossible to remove them.
To this day it is better to avoid mushrooms that were collected from an area contaminated by Chernobyl fallout and that is why Chernobyl fallout is still a big issue in countries that got heavily contaminated.
How does the future look for Chernobyl Exclusion Zone? As of right now, the Ukrainian government is trying to get Chernobyl on the UNESCO World Heritage List in order to promote tourism there. While I do support putting Chernobyl on this list I am a little bit worried that the Zone will become flooded with tourist that will not have respect for it and it will lose its unique atmosphere. I guess the time will tell!