The Chernobyl disaster confirmed everyone’s worst nightmares about the awesome power of nuclear reactions. When the Ukrainian reactor collapsed, the radioactive fallout profoundly contaminated the surrounding environment, affecting any living beings located within the so-called “Exclusion Zone” of 30 kilometers around the reactor’s shell. Acute radiation poisoning annihilated a large pine stand, since renamed “the Red Forest,” while many animals suffered significant physical or mental abnormalities.
Invertebrates in the area suffered particularly dramatic population crashes, as most radioactive material resides in the topsoil layer where such insects survive and reproduce. Even apparently healthy wildlife was forbidden from resale because of the dangerous levels of radioactivity. The dangers of radiation led to a government-mandated eviction of the radioactive territory soon after the 1986 explosion.