Living In The Shadow Of Chernobyl

Town near infamous nuclear plant still draws newcomers.

ByABC News
March 1, 2008, 7:54 PM

Mar. 1, 2008— -- Jocelyn Hoyt is a normal six-year-old girl. She enjoys going to the park and playing with her friends. But she is American and both the park and her friends are Ukrainian.

Jocelyn lives in the small town of Slavutych, just 20 miles away from the Chernobyl nuclear plant -- otherwise known as the site of the worst man-made disaster in the world. Almost 22 years ago, on April 26, 1986, nuclear reactor #4 exploded, releasing a toxic inferno that devastated the area.

But while Soviets worked at the plant then, it is American Joel Hoyt who today tracks the radiation leaking from the plant.

So Jocelyn and her parents live in Ukraine and it is Mr. Hoyt's job to make sure that no one is in danger from the crack that has formed in the dome covering the plant. "There's no greater challenge than right here in my mind," he said. "And no greater chance to make a great impact."

Slavutych is a young town, built in the months following Chernobyl for the families who lost their homes. He and his wife moved there from Washington state but he said he is not concerned for the safety of his family at all.

Jocelyn's principal, Natalie Ivanova Ivashko, was sent to live in the next town over after the disaster. She, too, said she is not afraid to live close to the plant, even so soon after the disaster.

"I wasn't nervous at all to come here," she told ABC News. "My two boys are healthy. One is a university student studying nuclear safety."

Recently, the Hoyts visited the states but Jocelyn couldn't wait to come back to Ukraine. Joel and his wife don't know how long they will stay but they say this is a unique learning experience for their family. "I just kind of feel like we've joined the masses that have come to help and try to make things right," said Mrs. Hoyt.