Tours of Chernobyl sealed zone officially begin

Given recent events with the horrific earthquake hitting Japan and the subsequent contamination escaping from the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, the idea of visiting the site of a previous nuclear melt down is probably not at the front of many people’s minds as a tourist destination.

However, as we’ve reported not long ago, Chernobyl is fast becoming a tourist hot spot . In 2009, some 7,500 people visited the Chernobyl site where on April 26, 1986, the number 4 nuclear reactor at the Chernobyl Nuclear Station exploded during a test to see how much power was needed to keep the reactor operating during a blackout.

Following on with this unexpected success, plans were announced last year to officially open up the area around the Chernobyl reactor to visitors who wish to learn more about the tragedy that occurred 25 years ago this coming April.

When Chernobyl’s reactor No. 4 exploded on April 26, 1986, huge amounts of radiation spread over northern Europe, forcing the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of people and creating major health issues for those in the area. The “exclusion zone,” a 30-mile radius space, was sealed off and visitors were prohibited.

The sarcophagus covering the destroyed 4th power block is seen in the background

Ukraine's emergency ministry have started organised official tourist tours to Chernobyl

A visitor takes pictures of portraits of former Soviet leaders in the ghost city of Prypyat

A visitor walks at an abandoned hotel in the ghost city of Prypyat

Journalists and visitors stand in front of the memorial for the Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster victims

All that is changing, though, as the Ukrainian government has officially opened tours to groups. A spokeswoman for the Government’s Emergency Situation Ministry, Yulia Yurshova, told the Wall Street Journal, that tours of Chernobyl and the surroundings areas already welcome roughly 6,000 visitors a year, albeit illegally.

Yershova told the Associated Press in December that experts were developing tour routes that were medically safe and informative. “There are things to see there if one follows the official route and doesn’t stray away from the group,” she said. “Though it is a very sad story.”

Scott Snowden

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