Chernobyl exclusion zone in Ukraine. How it looks today.
On April 26, 1986, there was an accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, which became the biggest catastrophe in the history of mankind in the field of nuclear energy. 30 years later, the Chernobyl exclusion zone is far from being empty.
Sightseeing for tourists
Chernobyl exclusion zone has attracted tourists and so-called stalkers who illegally get to the contaminated territory since the mid-1990s. The first of them began to visit the zone after the creation of agency for information, international cooperation and development “ChernobylInterinform” (existed from 1995 to 2013), which was also involved in organization of tourist trips to the exclusion zone. Officially, visiting the exclusion zone was allowed for everyone from December 2010 to June 2011; however, later the rules were tightened up. Now, the age of tourists must be at least 18 years old. A three-day individual trip to Chernobyl will cost about $249. A one-day private trip is about $150.
Visitors of the zone are not even afraid of mutated living beings
Tours to Chernobyl are extremely popular. Last year, 15.5 thousand tourists travelled to Chernobyl zone. Despite the current situation in Ukraine, this kind of tourism has experienced only a short-term decline. We represent this travel direction at the largest tourism fairs in the world, in particular, those held recently in Berlin and London, and we plan to continue this activity in the future. The flow of foreign tourists is increasing. Geography of tourists is over 60 countries, represented by countries from New Zealand and Australia to Colombia, Mexico, Chile, Pakistan, India, South Africa and China, not to mention Europeans, residents of the United States and Canada.
Who goes to Chernobyl ?
Different categories of citizens from 18 to 21 years old. These are people who once played the computer games of the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series, where the location was the Chernobyl exclusion zone. Also people go there to conduct certain activities, including scientific research; journalists and documentaries go to film films; people who lived directly in those places before the accident go to see their previous lives. For all these groups of citizens, we also organize trips there. To date, according to the Ukrainian legislation, a person willing to visit for excursion or research purpose can stay in the exclusion zone no more than five days.
A reason for inspiration
The zone often appears in works of art and literature: films (“Raspad”, “Forbidden Zone”) and series (“Chernobyl: Exclusion Zone”, “Moths”) are made, a series of computer games by S.T.A.L.K.E.R. was created, a series of books based on it is released.
For security reasons, almost no films are shot directly in the zone, but there are exceptions to this unspoken rule. In particular, during the filming of the Russian TV series “Chernobyl: Exclusion Zone”, some scenes that did not involve actors were filmed in Pripyat.
Place for life
Officially, there are few categories of people living in the territory of the exclusion zone; these are personnel engaged in maintaining the Chernobyl NPP in a safe state and employees of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine that protect scientists and technicians. However, in reality the list of inhabitants of the zone is much bigger. So-called self-settlers (people who came back to live in Chernobyl zone without official permission) returned to their homes after post-accident clean-up, someone even purposefully occupied no-man’s land.
There are no wars and crises; there is work and a roof over your head. The only trouble is radiation. However, it is not visible. What cannot be seen, does not exist. So local people think.
The streets of the city are deserted; there is no advertising and colorful signage. The administration of the Exclusion Zone, the Institute for Nuclear Safety Problems, the Chernobyl Water Exploitation, Technocenter, Ecocenter, hospital, police department, three stores, a library and even a gym are located in the city. Employees of enterprises are provided with rooms in the renovated five-story hostels. They work in shifts: 15 days are in the zone, 15 – at home on “big land”, this is how local people call all settlements outside the zone. It is forbidden to stay in the territory longer than this period for security reasons – it is necessary to “rest” from radiation.
Radiation scares the first few days. At first, in the zone, it is scary to eat and you feel like everything is infected. Then you get used to it, some people work here for years, – everyone seems to feel good, there is no threat.
Once a year, workers of Chernobyl must undergo a full medical examination. The hospital is no different from the usual urban. Unless there are unbearable queues and first of all patients go not to the therapist, but to the office of individual dosimetry control. 600 meters from the station, there is a gray two-story building; it is dining room for NPP workers. Inside everything is sterile: snow-white walls, and you can see your reflection in the gray floor tile – it is polished.
Place for the wedding
Chernobyl exclusion zone can serve as a place for rather unexpected ceremonies. American Philip Grossman married his bride during the trip to Chernobyl.
At the moment, the danger of spreading radiation contamination remains low. Works to built new sarcophagus for the fourth power unit, where the accident occurred are underway. It should replace the current one, called “Shelter”. Initially, the Ukrainian authorities planned to complete the project in 2015, but the construction is not finished yet.
However, it is too early to talk about zero level of danger. For example, the fire that occurred near the ChNPP last year caused considerable concern among ecologists and other specialists, although it was extinguished without serious consequences.
The explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant took place on the night of April 26, 1986. The accident led to creation of exclusion zone on the territory of Ukraine and Belarus within a radius of 30 kilometers from the station; residents of the settlements were evacuated. Over 600 thousand people took part in liquidation of the consequences of the disaster.
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