18 Oct

Is it safe to visit Chernobyl?

HBO miniseries about Chernobyl

In June 2019, HBO presented the new miniseries "Chernobyl", which showed the whole world the effects of an ardent disaster. The series gathered over 8 viewers. The whole world knows about the tragedy, but no one was really interested in the full details of the accident before. The information "bomb" has led to increased interest in the Exclusion Zone. Crowds of people buy trips to Chernobyl to visit the center of the historical tragedy. Only in August 2019, the zone was visited by over 14 thousand. tourists. This is five times more than at the beginning of the year. People from over 120 countries have already visited Chernobyl. Of course, we cannot separate the organic growth of tourism in Ukraine from the impact of the HBO mini-series Chernobyl, but the benefits of this series on the popularity of the Chernobyl zone cannot be denied.

Chernobyl HBO miniseries - Burning reacor

- Legasov and Scherbina are discovering the still burning reactor on the 27th of April - one day after the explosion. Chernobyl HBO miniseries

The accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant

Deep on the night of April 26, 1986, two massive explosions occurred in the core of the fourth reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, located just 2 km from the city of Pripyat. Staff was carrying out an experiment to test the so-called turbo-generator rotor overrun mode, but a rare combination of various technical and human factors led to a tragic sequence of events. The idea was to use the rotor's kinetic energy to support the plant's electricity needs in the event of a power plant failure. First of all, the design flaws of the graphite control rods and reactor safety systems are considered to be the main cause of the disaster. The radiation emission at the time of the explosion was equal to 400 bombs dropped on Hiroshima. Witnesses recall the red fire that appeared after the first blast and the mushroom-shaped cloud after the second. As a result of the explosion, the reactor was almost completely destroyed and the radioactive cloud began to travel all over Europe. Huge territories of Ukraine, Belarus, Russia, and some other European countries were heavily contaminated. Some of these territories are still abandoned today, even after more than 30 years.

Evacuation of the city of Pripyat

Despite the enormous threat to the health of the population of the USSR and European countries, the Soviet government decided to keep everything secret. Only 36 hours after the explosion, the evacuation of 50,000 began. inhabitants of the city of Pripyat, where astronomical levels of radiation were already observed at that time. To avoid panic, people were told that they only left the house for 3 days and were not allowed to take anything with them other than papers, food and clothes. Though people never came home again.

Pripyat, Ukraine. Pripyat tour - Adventure Tours in Ukraine

- Entrance stela to the Pripyat ghost town. Adventure Tours in Ukraine

The USSR government decided to hide the Chernobyl reactor under a sarcophagus in order to stop the emission of radiation from the ruins of Block 4. The first 30-year term "Shelter" was completed only 6 months after the explosion - in November 1986. In 2016. 30 years later, the construction of the New Safe Hiding was completed. Built on international money, the facility should protect us from radioactive ruins for the next 100 years. Now the zone is open to tourists. But is a visit to Chernobyl safe?

Chernobyl radiation levels and radiation effect on human body

Radiation is a flow of energy, which spread as waves or particles. Among the different types of radiation, people consider alpha, beta and gamma rays as the most dangerous for a human body. We call it ionizing radiation. Knocking electrons from atoms, ionizing radiation can damage DNA in the cells, causing diseases and in some cases death.

However, people are affected by radiation every day. Among popular sources of radiation are the sun, some soils, scans in airports, X-rays, etc. The established annual normal dose for an average civilian may vary from country to country and range from 2 to 4 mSv (MilliSievert) or 2000-4000 μSv. Here are the most popular radioactive sources people confronts each day:

  1. A banana. This yellow fruit encapsulates 0.1 μSv on average. How many bananas do you usually eat in a month?
  2. Scan in an airport gives you a dose of up to 0.9 μSv. The flight on a plane brings around 2,5 μSv per one hour on average.
  3. Absorbed radiation from a fluorography brings your body 0.5 mSv or 500 μSv.

During a guided trip to Chernobyl, average tourist absorbs from 2 to 3 μSv (equal to one hour of flight on a plane). However, the true thrill-seekers can find some hotspots of radioactivity which are still safe to measure, but the clicks of the dosimeter will send shivers on one's spine.

Pripyat, Ukraine. Pripyat tour - Adventure Tours in Ukraine

- "Hotspot" of radiation in the 1st micro-district of Pripyat. 45.92 μSv/h

Is it safe to visit Chernobyl?

Experts say - yes, it is. If you follow the simple safety rules and instructions from a professional Chernobyl guide - of course, it is safe.

For many years after the outbreak of the Chernobyl exclusion zone, it was undergoing a thorough decontamination - liquidation of the effects. During this process, liquidators sacrificed their health, and sometimes their lives, making difficult decisions to locate all radionuclides in a special nuclear waste cemetery and clear the territory. As a result, 33 years later, many heavily polluted areas are now available and safe to visit within a day. Of course, the zone is diverse and some locations have their radiation level, but you will only keep the safe route when visiting Chernobyl safely. Fortunately, all the most interesting locations, such as the city of Chernobyl, The New Safe Confinement (sarcophagus above the fourth reactor), Duga radar (Russian Woodpecker), the ghost town of Pripyat, the Death Bridge, etc. are included in the regular safe route.

!!! The 100% safety of our guests is always a priority for us !!!

School in Pripyat, Ukraine. Gas mask

- Entrance stela to the Pripyat ghost town. Adventure Tours in Ukraine

Nowadays, the zone is divided on 2 main parts: 10 km and 30 km zone (the approximate radius around the nuclear power plant). Here are the average radiation levels at popular locations in the zone:

  • -> Chernobyl and 30 km zone - 0.15 μSv per hour
  • -> Radar Duga - 0.2 μSv / h
  • -> Near the sarcophagus - 0.8 μSv / h
  • -> Bridge of deaths - 0.6 μSv / h
  • -> Pripyat-ghost town –1 μSv / h

    For comparison:

  • -> City of Kiev - 0.15 μSv / h
  • -> Transatlantic flight - 2.5 μSv / h

On average, during the entire day trip to Chernobyl, humans absorb about 2 μSv / h. This is sometimes 10 times less than when flying in an airplane, because the Sun is still the largest source of radioactivity in our galaxy.