In April 1986 the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant experienced a major problem. The reactors had partial meltdowns and protective casings were destroyed. As a precaution, the nearby city (population 50,000) of Pripyat was abandoned and another 180,000 residents in the region were relocated.
Landsat satellite data acquired during the accident were used to illustrate conditions at the plant. The value of Landsat data acquisitions was thus proven and became a major boost to the importance of global Landsat coverage.
Continued coverage of the region enforces the importance of Landsat data continuity. In the 1986 scene the region is largely marked by extensive road networks, cultivated fields prepared for planting (bright, light tones), dense forest cover (dark green), and small communities (blue, purple).
In the 2011 image limited resettlement has begun. Some of the cultivated fields are being replanted, though most of the fields are now grasslands (light green). The dense forests were destroyed and replanted (lighter, more uniform green) and the communities abandoned.
The power plant has been closed and final containers covering the reactors will be in place by 2014 as the region recovers from the disaster.