Tour Chernobyl!

4 01 2011

So you might not believe it, but the Ukrainian government has recently announced that beginning in 2011 they will open the sealed zone around Chernobyl to the public.

As you should remember, or at least have learned about, Chernobyl was the site of an actual nuclear power plant meltdown in 1986.  It’s located in what was then Soviet Russia — the U.S.S.R.  The Cold War had been raging for decades, and the techniques had been honed so well that practically no one outside of the Soviet government knew about the incident — not even the residents in the surrounding areas — for days after the catastrophe.  The U.S. first learned about the accident from infrared satellite photos.  When first reported on in American newspapers, Russian officials had denied anything out of the ordinary.  It was then that I learned that nuclear disasters could be very quiet things.

Today there is a restricted zone 30 miles in radius around the facility.  Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced by the danger, and the ground is still popping with radiation.  Just last April, the Ukrainian president was telling folks how the reactor was still a threat.  Reportedly, there are still 2500 people who work for the government around and within the restricted zone to maintain the area.  This isn’t too dangerous as long as their exposure is kept brief.  But being irradiated, even to a small degree, many times over the course of a year does eventually build up.

But for someone like you, who could perhaps visit for a day and then leave, the danger would be minimal.  I would *love* to go there… just to see a place that was so secret when I was in high school.  It would be fascinating, not just to visit the reactor, but to walk the grounds where the plant and animal life were exposed to such high levels of DNA-altering particles.  Understand, I am not an anti-nuclear power activist –in fact, I’m totally in favor of it, and I believe that the US would be better off by building a few more plants to supply our energy needs, but this is a lesson we could all learn from. This accident occurred because of a careless act.  A slip of the brain.  Negligence on the part of the administration and the scientists who felt that the reactor was so safe they could run experiments while it was operating.

As Emergency Situations Ministry spokeswoman, Yulia Yershova, said, “There are things to see there if one follows the official route and doesn’t stray away from the group, though it is a very sad story.”

Opening up this ‘museum’ to visitors would give us all a firm reminder of the danger trapped within the smallest of particles.  I hope one day to get to visit.





4 responses

22 01 2011

I’d love to do this…but the tours are still really restricted, and you have to stay with your guide and on the beaten path, or at least so I read. Apparently there’s a thing called Chernobyl Stalking…where people sneak into Chernobyl and Pripyat and the surrounding areas (very illegal, and I hear the Ukrainians have no reservations about blasting trespassers). So guys wear NBC suits and carry Geiger counters and wander around and evade the authorities and take some baller pictures of the barren land.

The German government is supposed to pay to compensate hunters if they shoot a boar and find out that, because of the mushrooms they eat, they’ve been contaminated by some radioactive caesium…

I read, though, that the first hints of the Chernobyl disaster were unusual radiation at a Swedish nuclear facility…like 1,000 km away! It’s insane, how far detectable radiation from a single meltdown can go, and how easily the Swedes were able to figure out that something, somewhere, had gone horribly awry.

22 01 2011

Hayden, I’d never heard about the Swedes detecting it. That’s really fascinating. The whole thing was just very bizarre at the time, but maybe from your research you’ve discovered a bit about what it was like to live during the Cold War. That’s definitely something today’s new generation needs to become familiar with.

15 03 2011

It seems we have a new disaster to discuss and hash out in the world of nuclear power rather soon. So much for building more plants in the US…

18 03 2011

I think this whole thing could become the worst nuclear accident in history. I know the news folks are saying it won’t be nearly as bad as Chernobyl, but Chernobyl wasn’t burning plutonium! That stuff scares me!

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