This year the world will commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl Nuclear Accident. Discover the facts about the biggest nuclear disaster in the history and find the answers to your questions about Chernobyl today!
- What is Chernobyl, and where is it located?
Since 1986, Chernobyl is the administrative center of the Chernobyl exclusion zone in Ukraine. Zone was formed as a result of the Chernobyl accident and the forced relocation of residents of the 30 km zone around it. A 2600 square kilometers area is equal to the area of Luxembourg. Actually Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant is located in 18 km from the town of Chernobyl and 94 km to north of Kiev.
There is the ghost town of Pripyat near the plant, where the workers lived with their families. The Ukrainian-Belarusian border is 12 km from there. One can reach Chernobyl only by car or private bus.
The way to the checkpoint takes about 1.30 hour from the Kiev center. Tourists are allowed to enter the zone only with official guides; all visitors are instructed in and sign the necessary documents. The maximum permitted length of stay is 4 days. The most popular is one-day small-group tour to Chernobyl and Pripyat from Kiev that includes a visit to the major sites and leaves a lasting impression.
- When did Chernobyl explosion happened?
On the night from 25 to 26 April during the production experiment, the accident occurred at Unit 4 of nuclear power plant. The reactor exploded and was completely destroyed. Its buildings also were partially destroyed; there were about 30 fires around and inside. By the morning of April 26, the fire has been extinguished, but a massive amount of radioactive elements was thrown to the atmosphere. Elevated levels of these elements has been noticed not only in nearby areas, but also in Europe and in the Ural region of Russia after radioactive rains.
On April 27, town of Pripyat was evacuated, and within a few days the inhabitants of towns within a radius of 10 km from the station were forced to leave their home. Later the exclusion Zone was increased to a radius of 30 km from Chernobyl plant. About 200 thousand people were evacuated to neighboring towns and villages for a short time, but never could come back. The elimination of the accident continues to this day.
- Do people live in Chernobyl zone?
In the Chernobyl zone today, most people work in shifts with different schedules. These are nuclear power plant workers, firefighters, police and military at the checkpoints, foresters, drivers, etc. The total amount of personnel is about 4 thousand people. In addition, some people came back to their semi-abandoned villages. They are called self-settlers. They grow vegetables and fruits and keep cattle. In the area, there is no social infrastructure: there is no public transport, hospitals or shops in villages. However, auto shops regularly come there and old people can buy necessary products or order something required for the next time.
The impact of radiation on these people is difficult to track, because their morbidity and mortality often are associated with age and natural factors.
As to the animals in the CEZ, it is the object of strong scientists’ interest. Populations of animals has increased significantly. In addition, it is noticed a new rare species such as the lynx or European bear. 40 video traps help monitoring the forests.
- Is it safe to visit Chernobyl?
According to the International Nuclear Event Scale, the Chernobyl accident got the maximum assigned 7th level of danger. However, is Chernobyl still dangerous? After 30 years, some radioactive elements have lost their effects. The others are still dangerous, but they are concentrated in remote places — a few gullies and swamps, various indentations in the ground and flat surfaces, covered with so-called radioactive dust. The official routs for tourists avoid these places.
An average daily radiation background in almost every city of the planet — 0.22 mSv/h. An average level of radiation in Pripyat — 0.54 mSv/h, at the Chernobyl today it is about 0.11 mSv / h, right next to the reactor — 1.3 mSv/h. The following is considered dangerous for health:
— a single high exposure (more than 1000 mSv /h)
— a continuous exposure for a long time, which leads to accumulation of the radiation in the body.
Thus, if travelers observe the rules of stay in the zone, they get about 7-10 mSv of radiation per day. The same dose of radiation is received by passenger of aircraft New York — Tokyo.
- What are the rules for visiting Chernobyl?
CEZ territory is fenced with barbed wire, at the entrance there are checkpoints. Lists of tourists are applied in advance to the relevant authorities. At the entrance to the area, it is required to have a passport.
- Wear closed-fitting body garment;
- Do not eat, drink or smoke in the open air;
- Do not touch the plants and facilities;
- Do not drink water from land-based sources;
- Do not sit down and put the items on the ground;
- Do not change confirmed route.
- Take and bring anything from the Zone.
All the people, things and vehicles are monitored by radio-control devices. If necessary, the decontamination can be done at the checkpoint.
- What can be seen during a private guided tour to Chernobyl and Pripyat?
In the 10-kilometer zone, it is allowed to stay for 1 day, in the 30-kilometer zone — no more than 4 days.
The objects, which are allowed to visit, are:
— The observation deck overlooking the Chernobyl «Shelter»;
— Prometheus monument and memorial plaques to those killed in the accident;
— Chernobyl cooling pond and feeding the catfish;
— The central streets of the abandoned city of Pripyat (walking tour);
— Some village areas where people live;
— Cemetery of machines, which participated in the liquidation of the accident;
— A secret military facility of the Cold War time.
In addition, you can check your feelings inside Chernobyl staying at hotel during 2-day Chernobyl tour, and visiting the hats of self-settlers, who usually are happy to meet the guests.
Most guides are former residents of the Chernobyl zone, who witnessed the accident and subsequently studied everything connected to it. They bring tourists to their homeland and talk about scientific and technological progress and fatal human error, about the memories and dreams, about death in Chernobyl and about the life after that death.
P.S. In 2002, the United Nations confirmed that the most of places in the exclusion zone can be attended without harm to health.
P.P.S. In 2009, Forbes magazine named the Chernobyl nuclear power plant as the most exotic place for tourism on the Earth.