It’s hard to appreciate the scale of Chernobyl’s unfinished giants. With the larger of the two cooling towers visible from miles around it’s only when you start walking towards them that you realise just how far away they actually are and you can fully comprehend their size.
Approaching the towers involves crossing a large expanse of concrete, hundreds of triangular metal beams are stacked up on the right-hand side. As I draw closer I count several small triangular radiation signs protruding from the pile. Leaving the roadway, it’s necessary to tread carefully as the terrain is pitted and uneven. The whole area is strewn with hidden obstacles, chunks of rusting metal of varying shapes and sizes litter the ground and strands of cable snake through the long grass. It was only when my left boot began to fill up with water that I realised just how carefully. Fortunately having sliced cleanly through the thick rubber sole, whatever it was, somehow missed my foot.
Standing directly under the chimney walls provides you with an exhilarating perspective. The walls themselves are crudely made, formed of large blocks, they clearly undulate as they stack skywards. At the very top 4 levels of scaffolding clings to the rim. This complex metal ring has lasted well considering the years of extreme weather it has endured but gravity can only be biding its time.
Within the larger tower the acoustics are incredible, with the slightest sounds triggering replies at half-second intervals, resulting in much shouting, whistling and general banging and clanking of random objects. On the floor of the tower are the foundations of the cooling apparatus. A piece of metal pipe, so large you could almost walk through it standing upright, is mounted to a concrete plinth. Many of the concrete components are hand dated. A protective walkway, seemingly improvised from sections of a crane, runs across the floor and leads outside.
To the rear of the towers, building materials are stacked neatly, now destined never to fulfil their original purpose. There are many rotting wooden crates dotted around and from several spill safety helmets, decades of exposure leaving them brittle and discoloured. The ground rises up to what’s left of a fence and beyond sits a crane and a large building from which machines hum and shouting can be heard.
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