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Chernobyl Nuclear Plant to Become Official Tourist Attraction

The Ukrainian government has announced the Chernobyl nuclear disaster site will be included in a full scale tourist program.

I know it sounds weird, but tourists have been visiting Chernobyl through unofficial tourism programs, for several years. Authorities are just trying to make things official, so they can actually cash out on the interest people have in the famous contaminated zone. Oddly enough, the Ukrainian Ministry of Emergency will be in charge of operating tours, and although they guarantee every measure will be taken to insure tourists’ safety, Chernobyl isn’t really as safe as they’ll have you think.

On April 26, 1986, reactor number 4 of the local nuclear power station exploded, causing the greatest nuclear disaster in the history of mankind (not counting the ones caused by US nuclear bombs in Japan). A perimeter of 30 miles around the epicenter was closed up to the public, to prevent radioactive contamination, maintained by thousands of technicians, to reduce exposure to radiation. While the catastrophe happened almost a quarter of a century ago, the area around the power station is still very dangerous, especially since the remaining three nuclear reactors have not been shut down, and the shield placed over reactor 4 has been steadily deteriorating, under pressure from within. A new, improved “sarcophagus”, big enough to cover the Statue of Liberty and weighing 20,000 tons, will be ready in 2012.

The tourists have to sign a form before entering the zone previously closed off to anyone without special permission, in which they have to promise they will respect the rules especially designed to prevent contamination, likeĀ  siting or placing luggage or other personal objects on the ground, eating or smoking outside. With a slight irony a tour guide says there are only two cases of tourist contamination a year.

The strange tour will include visits of the plant andthe abandoned city of Pripyat, located just 2 miles away from the nuclear plant, from which 50,000people were evacuated the day after the nuclear disaster.

Tourist opinions differ at seeing this ghost city. Bobby Harrington, an Australian young woman, said “It is very beautiful and poetic but the whole tragedy makes me feel very uncomfortable with photographing it. It’s too early maybe. There are a lot of people still alive…. It’s the voyeuristic element that I feel uncomfortable with.”

On the other hand, there are the ones who just consider this a testimony to an historical event, as is the case of Karl Backman, from Sweden, who said “I always wanted to see this place, since it happened. It’s a very important part of our recent history. I do not think it’s bizarre. It’s no different from the Coliseum, where people died… or from Auschwitz. It’s history.”

via AOL News (photos via Wikimedia Commons)

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