Ukraine – Chernobyl

On Saturday 26th April 1986 there was a nuclear accident at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant that would change the world forever.

During a routine maintenance check, vital controls were turned off when testing the electrical systems. This caused the nuclear reactor to reach power levels that were to low and unstable.  This was combined with what is now acknowledged as a flawed reactor design being operated with inadequately trained personnel.

The resulting steam explosion and fires released at least 5% of the radioactive reactor core into the environment, with the deposition of radioactive materials in many parts of Europe

The Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant is located in Ukraine, which at the time was part of the Soviet Union. It is about 80 miles north of the city of Kiev and 20 miles south of the Ukrainian border with Belarus.

The nearest city to Chernobyl is Prypiat. Now a ghost town, Prypiat had a population of almost 50,000 before it was it was evacuated in just 3 hours on the afternoon of 27 April 1986, the day after the Chernobyl disaster.

When you visit Chernobyl and Prypiat, you will still see the Communist propaganda that hangs on walls. Occasionally you will see personal belongings left on the empty streets. Children’s toys are strewn about a schoolhouse where they were last dropped by children in the rush to leave. Strikingly, all of the clocks in the city are frozen at 11:55. This is not when the explosion occurred but the time as which the electricity to the city was cut.

The immediate impact on the city was devastating. More radiation was released in the explosion than was released in Hiroshima when the atomic bomb was dropped. For at least two weeks after the explosion, radioactive fumes leaked from the site and it took the USSR authorities over seven months to build the concrete sarcophagus covering reactor No. 4.

As Seen in…

 

Places to visit on our Ukraine Holidays

A very in depth and detailed tour with a tour leader who cared deeply for her country. It is hard to describe the feelings that I had visiting the Chernobyl site but I know it was certainly worth it and should be done be anyone visiting Ukraine.

Andrea Stubb, U.K.

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Why visit Chernobyl?

‘Is it safe to visit Chernobyl?’ And ‘Why would anyone want to visit Chernobyl?’ are probably the first things you will be asked if you tell friends and family that you are travelling to the Ukraine and that you will be visiting the site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster.  To start with, yes it is now possible to visit the site. As for safety, as with everything in life there is a calculated risk and according to the officials, the amount of radiation you’re exposed to is similar to on a long haul flight.

Visiting Chernobyl, the site of the world’s worst ever nuclear disaster is something you should certainly consider when visiting Ukraine. Tourists have been able to visit the Chernobyl site and the ghost city of Prypiat since 2011 and on average 20,000 people visit every year.

It is important to know that you can only visit Chernobyl when travelling with a professional licensed guide. It would not be safe or wise to attempt to explore the area on your own as there are still areas that are classed as high risk. The risk is not necessarily from the radiation which is present but also from the dilapidated buildings caused by the explosion and the lack of maintenance following the evacuation in 1986.

People have many reasons for wanting to visit Chernobyl. The recent, award winning HBO show brought the area back in to the attention of many in the west and has undoubtedly led to an increase in tourist numbers. The local authorities have also done an excellent job in preventing tours to the site and that of the city of Prypiat becoming a voyeuristic experience. There is a focus on education and understanding. Some may see touring Chernobyl as some kind of perverse pilgrimage and there have been instances of areas of the exclusion zone being used for filming post-apoplectic scenes for movies and music videos.

However, if you do want to see the site of one of the world largest man made ecological disasters, you should visit. You can expect to gain an understanding of the complex chain of events that led to the explosion, and the impacts that this has had on the generations that followed. It is a hauntingly stark place that will be forever etched in to the conscious of anyone who visits. It may well change your outlook on our place within the delicate ecosystem of this planet and how technology can be both a blessing and a curse.

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