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Chinese Companies Look to Chernobyl For Solar Power

Earlier this year, Ukrainian officials suggested that the vast expanse of territory surrounding the former Chernobyl nuclear plant could be transformed into a haven for solar energy production.

Earlier this year, Ukrainian officials suggested that the vast expanse of territory surrounding the former Chernobyl nuclear plant could be transformed into a haven for solar energy production.

That vision moved considerably closer to reality this week following an announcement by two Chinese firms.

Solar energy company GCL System Integration Technology and state-owned China National Complete Engineering Corp., Reuters reports, detailed plans to begin construction of a 1-gigawatt solar power plant within the "exclusion zone" next year.

Installation of renewable energy operations on contaminated lands is already in practice in China, where officials hope to prevent the country's energy demands from affecting farmers. A specific site for the plant wasn't disclosed and company officials did not offer a projected price tag.

"There will be remarkable social benefits and economic ones as we try to renovate the once damaged area with green and renewable energy," company chairman Shu Hua said in a statement.

Ukrainian officials told Bloomberg this summer that solar power could both reduce the country's reliance on Russian energy and make use of more than 1,000 miles of contaminated forests and marshes.

The area surrounding the Chernobyl plant — including the city of Pripyat — was evacuated more than 30 years ago after one of its three reactors exploded and set off the worst meltdown in history.

Although scientists said that the area shouldn't be inhabited by humans for thousands of years, the government opened it to tourists in 2011 and residents are slowly returning.

Officials said that the area maintained up to 4 gigawatts of transmission capacity in the area decades after its nuclear power era came to an abrupt end. Numerous international firms were reportedly interested in solar projects.

“We already have high-voltage transmission lines that were previously used for the nuclear stations, the land is very cheap and we have many people trained to work at power plants," environment minister Ostap Semerak told Bloomberg.

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