Radioactivity generated by the explosion will remain dangerous for thousands of years, while the concrete sarcophagus in which the damaged reactor is entombed is reportedly crumbling, and requires extensive work to avoid further radiation nightmares. But while it might have burned its fingers (and a lot more) at Chernobyl, the Ukraine government hasn't exactly sworn off nuclear energy. It had kept one of Chernobyl's four reactors operational until now, saying Western donors had failed to come through with aid promised to build two replacement reactors at Rivne and Khmelnitsky.
"The new reactors are certainly preferable to the old Soviet-model graphite gas ones, which were dangerously volatile," says TIME correspondent William Dowell. "At least the pressure-water reactors used in the West slow down the nuclear reaction in event of problems, as opposed to speeding it up as happened at Chernobyl. But in the long view, Chernobyl may serve as a reminder that both East and West adopted an extremely dangerous energy technology without fully understanding its costs and consequences nobody really considered what would happen to spent fuel, for example."