Radiation levels around Ukraine's doomed Chernobyl nuclear power plant are still dangerously high, despite the passage of three decades since the plant's catastrophic meltdown. As the 30th anniversary approaches, nearby residents say they have no choice but to carry on. Nathan Frandino reports.
Thirty years may have passed, but Chernobyl is still a dangerous place to live. On April 26th, 1986 a botched systems test sent clouds of nuclear material across Europe and sent radiation levels soaring. It was the worst nuclear meltdown in history. Video from the time showed a facility in ruins, as rescue workers surveyed the damage. And now, as the 30th anniversary approaches, Greenpeace's Rashid Alimov says little has changed. (SOUNDBITE) (Russian) GREENPEACE SENIOR NUCLEAR CAMPAIGNER, RASHID ALIMOV, SAYING: "The radiation levels are high. Many areas are considered to be contaminated and are not acceptable for agriculture and other things." Here in Russia's Bryansk region, the radiation has touched every aspect of people's lives. It is in the food they eat, in the milk and water they drink, on the childrens' playgrounds, and in the soil where their vegetables grow. Despite the contaminated food supply, residents say they have no choice but to eat it anyway. (SOUNDBITE) (Russian) LOCAL RESIDENT, TATYANA, SAYING: "What is the point of checking the radiation levels? Do you agree? We check them and they are beyond acceptable. What do we do then? Throw it away? We are hungry. Everybody wants to eat, our children and us." The disaster affected some 745 settlements, including 26 in evacuation zones. One of the worst effects was the significant decline in health. (SOUNDBITE) (Russian) LOCAL RESIDENT, ALEXEI, SAYING: "All of our bones ache… everything, arms, legs, even lifting hands is painful. At 70 merchants would be married, and us, we all have one foot in the grave." Even as officials build a new steel-clad casement to block radiation, the surrounding zone -- roughly the size of Luxumbourg, is expected to remain largely uninhabitable.