The catastrophe that took place at Chernobyl in 1986 is one of the world’s most devastating nuclear accidents. Killing around 350,000 people, this deadly incident was the result of a flawed nuclear reactor design by the soviet. Today, Chernobyl is no more than a ghost town with only a small number of residents which continue to suffer from the extensive radiation levels.
Where is Chernobyl Located?
The town and Chernobyl nuclear power plant is located in Ukraine. It is only 10 km from Belarus, its neighboring country. The town is situated near the Pripyat River that which originates from Russia. If you plan on visiting Chernobyl, first you need to travel to the capital city of Ukraine Kyiv, from there you have to take a 2 hour drive to reach Chernobyl.
Can You Visit Chernobyl?
In 2011, the Ukrainian government opened the Chernobyl exclusion zone for tourists but not without strict restrictions. In order to gain access to the Chernobyl exclusion zone you need a day pass. This pass can only be given by certain certified Chernobyl tour operators and must be applied for 10 days in advance. A day tour to the exclusion zone without a proper tour operator and a qualified nuclear expert is too dangerous as some areas have higher level of radiations than other. Without proper radiation monitoring equipment, you might end up exposing yourself to extremely harmful levels of radiation.
There are some areas that are restricted; an example is of the machine cemetery in the Rossokha village. It is for your safety that you stay away from such radioactive sites at all times.
There are checkpoints within the exclusion zone where you will need to show your permit and passport. Thus, while visiting Chernobyl make sure your documents are in order.
Is It Safe?
The amount of radiation which may have adverse affects your health is measures in sieverts. A lethal dose of radiation is equivalent to 3-5 sieverts in an hour. While you’re at the Chernobyl tour, you will only be exposed to 130-2160 microsieverts which is equal to 0.00261 sieverts. In other words, it is 1000 times less than a lethal level. So without doubt these radiation levels are safe.
However, if you are not on a tour with a professional guide and monitoring equipment, it is impossible to calculate the amount of radiation you might be exposed to. Exposure to high levels of radiation can result in some of the particles attaching to your clothes which can be dangerous as sustained exposure can lead to contamination.
At the tour, be mindful of the fact the abandoned buildings are littered with debris and broken glass. Stay away from the windows and note that some building surfaces may be unstable so watch before you step. Keep up with your tour guide, don’t wander around without permission. Furthermore, choose a proper attire before coming to the tour. Wear protective clothing and closed shoes. Avoid wearing slippers or heels as they will not only end up being uncomfortable but can also result into an injury. Make sure that your skin exposure is minimum; hence avoid wearing shorts or sleeveless shirts.
To make sure that you do not carry any contaminated material with you, avoid bringing too much stuff. Before leaving the site dispose off your clothes and clean your shoes thoroughly.
Similarly, there are some areas that are completely off limits for example the hospital buildings where the first respondent clothes and equipment were dumped. This is because these areas have high level of radiation thus higher chances of contamination. Therefore, while it all may seem amusing it is dangerous at the same time.
If you have children it is best to not bring them along but if you do, make sure that they are by your side at all times. Don’t let them leave your side as they are unaware of the danger they might be in.
When to Visit Chernobyl?
Chernobyl is a great place to visit all year round. However, if you want the weather to be clear and sunny, it is best if you visit from June to August. But be mindful of the hot summer heat as the temperatures can go as high as 30 Degree Celsius. A more manageable weather of Chernobyl is during spring or autumn when it’s not too hot nor too cold.
If you want to see Chernobyl at its eeriest time, you will have to visit it in winters. With the snow covered buildings, dry trees and occasional fog, the place will no doubt live up to its hype.
Even after all the destruction and devastation, nature has successfully reclaimed the nuclear site. Many animals have returned to their habitat, vegetation is flourishing; vines have started to grow over the buildings and other structures including the amusement park. The population of various species including moose, wild boar, deer’s and lynx has greatly increased over the last few years. Moreover, the site has turned into a sanctuary for species that are endangered such as the Przewalski’s horse and the European Bison.
While most of the tours to the site are in day time, you also have the option to stay at a small hotel in the town of Chernobyl. Many tourists claim that this is the best way to experience the trip rather than just spending just a few hours in the exclusion zone and in case you’re wondering, yes the place is safe and free from harmful levels of radiation.
You can also take a small trip to the Chernobyl museum which gives you the background and insight of the incident and you can also watch some interesting films that were shot during the time of the evacuation.
To complete your trip you can climb a high residential building, in this way you will get a complete view of the area and the famous Ferris wheel which was supposed to open a few days after the explosion.