In 1986, the world’s worst nuclear disaster struck the district of Chernobyl in the former Soviet Union. As a result of the catastrophic nuclear meltdown in Reactor #4 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, over 50,000 citizens of the nearby city of Pripyat were evacuated.
Since that fateful day 30 years ago, the city and it’s hinterland have remained eerily abandoned. It is only recently that the Ukrainian government have allowed private tours of the 2,600km² Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. The area is still highly radioactive and dangerous, but in 2015 I was lucky enough to take part in a two day tour of the nuclear wasteland that is Chernobyl.
The Doomed Nuclear Power Plant
Part One of my collection focuses on the heart of the disaster – the Nuclear Power Plant itself. I was amazed that you can stand just metres from Reactor #4 – for a limited amount of time of course, radiation is still detected in high dosages.
Yes, that’s me just metres away from the Reactor that caused the world nuclear disaster in history. I couldn’t believe that we get this close to Ground Zero. Nonetheless, we couldn’t stay long and our little yellow Geiger counters were buzzing the whole time!
Close to the power plant, a community built memorial to the disaster. Local people were treated miserably by the Soviet Union in the aftermath of the disaster. They came together to build this sombre memorial without any support from local government.
Sunken barges litter the rivers surrounding Chernobyl. The river itself was dammed off to prevent radiative water entering the Kiev River. As a result, dozens of contaminated were abandoned.
In 1986, the Power Plant at Chernobyl was expanding rapidly and was expected to be the largest in the Soviet Union. The rusting remains of incomplete Reactors 5 and 6 are extremely hazardous and off limits.
One of the half built cooling towers of the incomplete Reactors 4 and 5. Surprisingly, this mighty structure now provides an ideal home to numerous birds of prey.
The cooling tower is home to flocks of eagles. The lack of humans in the Exclusion zone has resulted in a massive increase in wildlife.
It’s not every day you have the oppuruntity to shout EEECCHHHHOOOOOO inside an abandoned nuclear cooling tower.
Chernobyl Nuclear Plant and the wreck of Reactor 4 loom over the doomed of city of Pripyat. Hundreds watched the disaster unfold from their rooftops, unaware that they were being exposed to lethal doses of radiation.
A nuclear fuel train lays forever idle in a railway siding next to the power plant. The Soviet Union pumped billions of dollars into the development of Chernobyl, only for it all to collapse in one fateful night.
After the disaster, Reactor #4 was enclosed in a concrete sarcophagus to prevent further releases of radiation. This shell has weakened over the years and and a new multi billion project will soon replace it.
The new multi-billion dollar cover is being constructed for the Reactor using money raised by nations around the world. The new sarcophagus will slide over the existing concrete sarcophagus, and will last 100 years. And then another will have to built, and another, and another…
“You’re going to Chernobyl?! You’re INSANE!!”
The general response from family and friends. I travelled to Chernobyl with Ukrainian Web – who go through a government agency. The owner, Yuri, was extremely helpful and managed to find me space on my preferred days of travel. Payment is in stages, with roughly half via Paypal beforehand and the rest on the day of the tour. Don’t worry, it’s fully legit!
A 2 day tour, including transport from Kiev, food and accommodation within the Exclusion Zone costs between €275 – €360 (depending on tour size and external factors). There is also a small visa-type charge upon entry to the exclusion zone. Safety precautions are taken, but don’t forget you are entering the most contaminated region on the planet!
Accommodation and food are basic, however our tour guide was actually born in Pripyat so he was extremely knowledgeable about the area and knew all the best places to visit. Oh, and the beer in the guesthouse bar is pretty cheap too 🙂
Have you travelled to Chernobyl? Or do you wish to visits this haunted city someday in the future?