Chernobyl was officially closed to the public earlier this year because it was not clear who was benefitting from the "tourist money". However, whack "day tour to Chernobyl" into your browser and you will quickly realise that tours are still happening anad that it is still very possible to go!
Chernobyl is a vast area within what is now called the Exclusion Zone. Within that zone there are many, many villages abandoned and being reclaimed by the forest. The town of Pripyat was nestled snuggly next to the nuclear power station and this is where you will be taken to look around.
You will have to pay a deposit up front (in most cases) and then the rest of the money in cash to the man on the street corner who arrives to book you into your tour and bus! You will need to (in advance) provide all passport details and when you meet your man on the street corner of Independence Square at 8:30am you will have to produce your passport.
It takes approximately 2 hours to get to Chernobyl from Kiev and you should expect a group of around 25 people. There is supposed to be a dvd to watch en route and a guide to take you around once there. Perhaps because the tours are now "unofficial" that should not be expected and certainly my experience was sans any information or guidance...
After you have spent some time "exploring" Pripyat, you will be taken back to what is like Chernobyl base camp and you will be able to "enjoy" lunch there before being taken up close and personal to the reactor.
You are then returned to the pick up point on Independence Square in Kiev, possibly, like me, with no more information that you started but treble the number of questions and with a feeling that you will never shake off the strange and surreal feeling a visit to Chernobyl gives you. It is a very interesting trip and certainly one that you will never forget.
I organised my tour through an agency called Tour2Chernobyl. I found them incredibly frustrating to deal with before I arrived in Kiev, on the morning of the tour it became apparent they had not paid my deposit to the people taking us who in turn called them "the worst agency there is".
On Saturday 26 April 1986 at 1:23am a level 7 nuclear disaster (on the International Nuclear Event Scale) occured at the V.I. Lenin Memorial Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station near the town of Pripyat, Chernobyl. Until the recent Fukushima it was the only disaster at this level but it is still considered to be the greatest/worst disaster of this kind ever.
The battle to contain the contamination and avert further disaster involved over 500,000 workers and cost an estimated 18 billion ruble. It was 2 days before the town of Pripyat was evacuated, further to a 20 second announcement on the television!
31 deaths are directly attributed to the accident, all reactor staff and emergency workers.
As of 2008 there 64 confirmed deaths from radiation.The World Health Organization (WHO) suggests this figure could reach 4,000 (not including military clean-up worker casualties).
A 2006 report predicted 30,000 to 60,000 cancer deaths as a result of Chernobyl fallout. Greenpeace however puts this figure at 200,000 or more.
A Russian publication concludes that 985,000 premature cancer deaths occurred worldwide between 1986 and 2004 as a result of radioactive contamination from Chernobyl.
From 1986 to 2000, 350,400 people were evacuated and resettled from the most severely contaminated areas of Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine.
The world you see inside Chernobyl is surreal and unnervingly unnatural.
When the disaster first happened one of the first towns inside Chernobyl was raised to the ground in the hope that it would help radiation levels. It made zero difference and so all other towns and villages were left to slowly decay and be reclaimned by the trees...
Untouched and unused for 25 years the buildings are delapidated and sad. There are a million stories within all the different walls that make up the ghostly, empty, forgotten about buildings... there is a disturbing beauty in the ruins....
A few artists have visited with their paints and have left stark, poignant (visual) reminders which adds to the eerie strangeness of the place.
Walking about - all is silent - more than silent... a heavy silence that cannot be penetrated, only disturbed for a brief moment by t ound of your own fotstep on the shattered glass and smashed-up tiles that give way under your feet... there is a stillness in which a multitude of secrets hang - this is no place for people any more but the flora and fauna are doing marvelously well!
Actually, within the Exclusion Zone there are about 3,000 residents! 50 of them are tolerated illegal residents - old people who have returned having failed to exist elsewhere as a refugee. The rest are personell - mostly military workers but there are "businesses" that operate/run within Chernobyl.
The level(s) of radiation differ hugely. In places the tarmac can have a lower level than that which is found naturally in Kiev. The moss that is pushing itself, like a flourescent green sponge through it can be 40 times higher than what is acceptable (but still not high enough to set of the alarms on the geiger counters - that happened inside the bus when the wind suddenly changed direction). It is not just to do with the level of radiation but the amount you absorb in a specific period of time - thus only being allowed around the reactor for 5 minutes (where it is extremely high) and having 30+ minutes to wander around Pripyat.
You can hire a geiger counter to keep with you throughout the tour. I did not bother and did not feel I had missed out. My guide left me to explore independently. The advice being to not touch green. Stay on tarmac. Enjoy view from hotel roof. The bus did start to drive away without all passengers so my advice is to try to stick to the tie limit you are given and make sure your presence within the tour is known! It is not aplace I would recommend being stranded in!!!
Even when not actively generating power, nuclear power reactors require cooling, typically provided by coolant flow, to remove decay heat. Pressurized water reactors use water flow at high pressure to remove waste heat. After an emergency shutdown (SCRAM), the core still generates a significant amount of residual heat, which is initially about seven percent of the total thermal output of the plant. If not removed by coolant systems, the heat could lead to core damage'. The reactor that exploded in Chernobyl consisted of about 1,600 individual fuel channels, and each operational channel required a flow of 28 metric tons (28,000 liters (7,400 USgal)) of water per hour. There had been concerns that in the event of a power grid failure, external power would not have been immediately available to run the plant's cooling water pumps. Chernobyl's reactors had three backup diesel generators. Each generator required 15 seconds to start up but took 60–75 seconds to attain full speed and reach the capacity of 5.5 MW required to run one main cooling water pump.
It's grey concrete carcass looks innocuous but wat is concealed within is far from. To stand close to it is a bizarre experience.
Even when they are not actively generating power, nuclear power reactors must be cooled. Pressurized water reactors use water flow at high pressure to remove waste heat. After an emergency shutdown (SCRAM), the core still generates a significant amount of residual heat, which is initially about seven percent of the total thermal output of the plant. If this heat is not removed by coolant systems it can lead to core damage.
Reactor 4 consisted of about 1,600 individual fuel channels. Each operational channel required a flow of 28 metric tons (28,000 liters of water per hour.
Chernobyl's reactors had three backup diesel generators that were to kick in, in the event of an electrical power failure. Each generator required 15 seconds to start up but took 60–75 secondsto attain full speed and reach the capacity of 5.5 MW required to run one main cooling water pump.
The nuclear power plant had been in operation for two years without the capability to ride through the first 60–75 seconds of a total loss of electric power!
When the emergency shutdown was attempted, an extreme spike in power output occurred. This led to a reactor vessel rupture and a series of explosions. These events exposed the graphite moderator of the reactor to air, causing it to ignite...
The concrete casing that was put around the reactor is now at the end of its life. On site, teams are assembling what will be the world's largest moveable structure. Once it is complete the structure will be moved into position to cover the building and reactor, to keep it safe.
Pripyat was founded in 1970 to house the workers for the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. It was officially proclaimed a city in 1979.
At the time of the accident (April 1986) the population of Pripyat was approx. 50,000.
Pripyat had a defined city centre - it is still visible and the buildings are still there only vandalised and ransacked, delapaidating and decaying in their sorrowful neglect. It is seen behind and between the trees and the shrubs and the moss growing around as well as on and inside. Nature is reclaiming what was once hers and eventually her roots in their stubbornness will weaken the foundations and make the buildings unsafe. In 2005 the four-storey school collapsed... others will follow but, for now, it is still possible to clamber around inside the shells of these once proud buildings...and the view from the roof of the Polissya hotel are somethng to be admired.
The roofs leak, paint is peeling from the walls, windows are in smithereens on the floor and the tiles have long since dropped and smashed. Stagalmites of probably lethal liquids grow up to try to form union with the salagtites that hang down....
In the town hall there are books and ledgers, filing cabinets upturned full of what was once important and carefully locked away documensts - these documents lay scattered and exposed on the floor... memories that once there was life here. Life that so very rapidly one day in April 1986 was stolen, displaced or sent into suffering.
It is quite possible you may have seen this fairground before - it has been used in Call of Duty 4, to name but one.
I think, if one can have a "favourite" part to a town deserted due to devastation, this was mine. Nostalgia for childhood, frozen in time. Rusty and corroding away in a sad beautiful state.
There is a ferris wheel ith it's ticket booth which can be seen from several of the buildinggs, dodgem cars, swing boats and a (not so) merry-go-round. All lyingsilent on the crack tarmac that has weeds and moss and trees pushing through it.
It was a thought provoking place with all its ghosts.
In a place where an atrocious experiment left it deserted and forlone, where time has literally, for 25 years, stood still, there are additions; poignant contributions to the sad, devastated landscape that is Chernobyl.
If you have wanted to see this then go before they finish the last sarcofagus that will completely cover the facility
2015 i think is when its completed?
anyways its becoming a tourist hot spot and making the whole idea less "eary" but anyway the tour guides are all nice and fun.
I think standard ticket is 149 and you get a nice large lunch.
Very reasonable for a once in a lifetime kind of thing.