On April 26, 1986, a serious reactor accident occurred at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. A total radioactivity of 2 x 10(18) becquerel, i.e. 3.5% of the reactor inventory were released spreading throughout Europe. Radioactive tracers were iodine 131 (with a half-life of 8 days) and caesium 137 (with a half-life of 30 years). Measurements made in Magdeburg by the Institute of Hygiene on May 5th after a heavy thunderstorm indicated a considerable radioactive contamination. Measurements revealed 75,000 bq/kg in grasses, 44,000 bq/litre in storm water and 40,000 bq/kg in garden soil, however, these high values decreased to normal by the end of 1986. The paper describes a stay in Chernobyl in 1989 and the environmental and working conditions prevailing at site. An increase of the cancer rate in the contaminated areas was not observed until 1990; however, thyroid tumours increased in children in Belorussia after that time. The current caesium load of the soils in the area is 10(6) becquerel/cubic metre. As much as 480,000 bq/kg were measured in dried mushrooms picked in the autumn of 1997. Assuming a mean natural exposure to radiation of the population in Germany of 2.4 millisievert/year (mSv/a), the additional load caused by the Chernobyl accident was 5% in 1986, falling to below 0.1% in 1996. Today, 19 nuclear power plants are operating in Germany for power generation. Radioactive substances are used in medicine, research and industry. An opinion on the safety of transports and final dumping of radioactive waste is given, based on a visit to the Morsleben final dump site. The use of nuclear energy and a percentage replacement by renewable energies are discussed from a regional and global perspective (climate protection).