Chernobyl To Rise As Tourist Attraction

CHERNOBYL, Ukraine -- Have you made up your mind about where to go for this year's vacation? How about the Chernobyl site in Ukraine?

Children's toys and gas masks litter a kindergarten classroom in Pripyat, Ukraine. The abandoned town sits just two miles (three kilometers) from the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, which exploded in the predawn hours of April 26, 1986.

In February, the Ukrainian government will officially open a commercial tour to what was once the site of the world's deadliest nuclear accident.

"The main objective is to show people the magnitude of the disaster, and to tell it is dangerous and they should be careful," Volodymyr Belashov, the ambassador of Ukraine to Korea, told The Korea Times last week.

The tour was supposed to open this month, but has been postponed. The site has been open on a limited scale for tourists arranged by a few tourism operators but this is the first time the site is open to all.

The trips will be organized by "ChornobylInterInform" or the Public Information, International Cooperation and Development Agency in Ukraine. The cost of the tour hasn't been determined yet.

In response to the first natural question that pops up ― the radiation risk ― the ambassador said that the risks are still there. But for that reason, tight security measures will be imposed on each visitor, he added.

One of the reactors at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant exploded on April 26, 1986. Fifty people were killed immediately, but the estimated number of deaths over time reached 4,000.

What can the site offer for tourists?

They'll be allowed to get "as close as they can" to the the exploded reactor but it's less probable that they will reach a meaningfully close distance due to a still high radiation level.

Also, tourists will be able to look around Pripyat, a nearby deserted city called a "forbidden city." Recalling his own trip to the site roughly a decade ago, the ambassador said, "They (the residents) took only important documentation when they were told to leave, and everything else was still there, which was incredible to see."

Between Jan. 13 and the beginning of this year, 44 people from 13 countries have visited the site, an encouraging number for the government.

What will add spice to the opening is that this year commemorates the 25th anniversary of the disaster.

In connection with this the Ukrainian government is preparing to host an international summit on nuclear safety in April, inviting the leaders of some 40 countries, including Korea. It will be followed by a couple of international conferences regarding nuclear safety.

"You have the demilitarized zone (DMZ) in Korea, which is the only thing of its kind in the world. Likewise, Ukraine has Chernobyl," the only massive-scale nuclear power plant explosion site existing in the world, he said, and it will hold its own charm.

Source: The Korea Times