Magical nuclear tours

11.07.2014 | By Leonid Uzvar

On the map of Ukraine there is a white spot, which has no roads or life. The entry to this area as well as exit from it is equivalent to crossing the border with its strict control and people wearing uniforms. The whole planet knows about this place, but not everyone dares to go there to the place, which gives birth to the greatest number of different myths and fables, which was much talked about, but still little known to people


Scientists believe that the Chornobyl zone should be studied, looters move from it everything they can, video games designers make games about it, film directors shoot movies and enthusiasts take there groups of tourists. Illwishers call it radiation tourism, and people who go there just want to see for themselves the results of one of the greatest disasters of the last century.

Some people think that the zone is visited by stupid teenagers who have nothing to do. In fact, young people under 18 are simply not allowed to the area, so todays tourists are mostly adults. It should be noted that such excursions are mostly of interest not among Ukrainian citizens but among foreign guests, for which many Ukrainian travel agencies provide the opportunity to visit the site of the accident. For diplomats such trips are often arranged by the Foreign Ministry and the General Management for Diplomatic Missions. Prices for a daytrip are as follows: for Ukrainians close to US $80 90, for foreigners US $130 160.

The trip is officially called The awarenessraising tour to the Chornobyl NPP and the exclusion zone. Indeed, this trip can hardly be called an excursion: there are many restrictions of which you will be constantly reminded by escorts. Perhaps, for this reason at first you will feel some tension. It will be repeatedly manifested during the trip in the form of black humor and jokes like You glow in the dark and Look through the wall what is going on there, which will be your faithful companions not only for the day of excursion but also in the near future after returning back home.


The last place before the Zone where you can safely leave the bus and just walk around is the border of the Chornobyl county.

The first village within the boundaries of the exclusion zone is the Zalissya village. Once it was stretched for kilometers along the road and it was big enough, now you can barely see it through the trees. Everything looks a little artificial here. You will have the suspicion again and again on the way, because all accommodations have turned into exhibits. In Kurchatov street (many streets have names associated and related to nuclear power) you can find yards overgrown with trees and bushes, in abandoned houses peoples discarded stuff and books.

Your second stop will be in the town of Chornobyl, which is most commonly associated with the tragedy. The center of the least populated area in Ukraine will meet you with peace and desolation. Many unfairly believe that the NPP is located close to Chornobyl. In fact, Chernobyl is the district center, and Prypyat was the actual atomic city.

Sometime later you will see the Chornobyl NPP and its main attraction the Shelter, which used to be its 4th unit. Right next to the entrance to the power station there is the village of Kopachi. Now this place looks like a welldug field with small plantations and signs warning about radiation. It is better not to leave the road here and in general in the zone. Because illegal walks through the local forests with a desire to see something interesting are not just illegal (if you are caught, you will be taken to the police), but simply suicidal.

300 meters away from the epicenter of the tragedy you can learn a lot about the accident and get answers to many questions. You will be told that 600,000 people took part in elimination of the consequences of the terrible disaster. You will learn of those who died in the first minutes, and who sacrificed their lives and health much later.

You will be allowed to take pictures only in a few places and directions on the territory of the NPP, which still remains a secure facility. Therefore, always keep it in mind in order not to spoil the journey.

There is plenty to see at the station. Everything is impressive: the scale of the station and storage facilities for nuclear waste, the scale of the accident, about which you will hear from an expert of the Center for International Cooperation, the size and diversity of reinforcing structures.

Prypyat 1970 with this slogan you will be met by the eternally young city, which now is a ghost town. Indeed, from the mathematical point of view Prypyat remains young, because until the complete devastation in 1986, it existed only for 16 years.

Of course, Prypyat is a unique city in many ways, but the main thing is its Soviet style, which remained untouched by the times due to the Chornobyl accident: everywhere you will see hammers and sickles, buildings with Soviet poems and slogans, yellow telephone booths. All that is gone now in other Ukrainian cities.


Each tourist group should have a walkietalkie radio and a dosimeter. Although the main danger in Pripyat is not radiation, but decay and dilapidation of buildings. You should be careful while exploring the buildings only one person is allowed to cross stairwells at the same time. Such is a safety requirement.

All guides are people whose lives are linked to the Chernobyl disaster. Someone lived in Prypyat before the terrible accident, and now you can visit their former homes, some of them worked as liquidators. They will tell you that people have known so little known about the scale of the disaster that went out to watch the 4th unit burning without any fear.

Desolation of the city is mesmerizing, although not very scary. But when the whole group stops talking the silence becomes simply deathly. Besides the natural destruction one can see traces of looting everywhere. In entrance halls in apartment buildings you may see traces of fires, which were used to burn precious metals. There is nothing left in the houses, let alone anything valuable. Peoples stuff was taken out in an unknown direction. Graffiti is a special type of art in the Zone. Drawings by unknown artists are quite interesting and were done fairly accurately.

The most important question that you can ask yourself after visiting the place: was it worth going out there? The answer would be a positive yes. Even if you are not a physicist or an ecologist, and you did not have to go there in a professional capacity. Many argue that the trip changed them. Such unusual places not only give their visitors an opportunity to study live history. The trip will also tell a lot about you. How did you feel after seeing the ghost town? How did you behave when dosimeter beeped at higher frequency? Are you afraid of radiation now? These questions cannot be answered at home.

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