Some call it the "ultimate kick". Others are traveling to Chernobyl to get a picture of the place where one of the worst nuclear accidents in history happened: how does it look like where a reactor collapsed in 1986? What is left of the scary power plant? What charm can the scary have?
Having a holiday in misfortunes, also known as Black Tourism, is a good business to do. Since Ukraine opened the zone around the reactor for visitors in 2011, the tours around Chernobyl are booming. So far, however, it was not possible to visit the epicenter of the disaster: reactor 4.
Now the government has released its control room for visitor groups, as international media report. "Now, those who are brave or foolish enough can take a very quick look at the place where this tragic story was written," says a report in the British newspaper Telegraph.
12 picturesChernobyl: Journey to the unlucky reactor
Photos, also featured in the Independent and DailyMail, show visitors in white suits, wearing a helmet and breathing apparatus, walking through the dilapidated control center, past old screens and dozens of buttons and switches. Cable shafts are open, dust lies on rusty faucets - where the catastrophe began.
On 26 April 1986 in Chernobyl a test was out of control, then exploded reactor 4 of the power plant. A radioactive cloud was spreading - from the former Soviet republic via Belarus and parts of Russia to Western Europe. About 50 people died as a result of acute radiation sickness. In addition, experts attributed tens of thousands of sometimes deadly cancers to the reactor accident, which can still occur in the coming years.
Only a few minutes are allowed
Now, 33 years after the disaster, the reactor is attracting public attention as a tourist attraction. The control room is below the arched protective shell that was erected in 2016 over the old sarcophagus. The construction was built to protect against radiation - according to government data, for at least a hundred years.
But what about the radioactivity in the control room? Is not a visit harmful to your health? "The visit took only a few minutes, so that the radiation exposure can not reach a dangerous level," writes the "Telegraph". According to Yaroslav Yemelianenko, head of Chernobyl Tour, a major organizer, if tourists stay on the signposted paths, they would be exposed to radiation of up to four microsieverts. That would be less radiation than you would get in an hour on a transatlantic flight.
The German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Radiation Protection estimates the endangerment of visitors as follows: "Participants in official, organized tours are monitored and the radiological situation is constantly monitored." Observing the behavioral guidelines, the stochastic risk remains limited, "the press department points out the MIRROR. The control room of block 4, however, was not included in the standard version of the tours - "the dose is higher here in an orderly process".
According to the Telegraph report, the level of radiation on the terrain varies, among other things, in the ground. The biggest danger in reactor 4: radioactive dust. Whoever stirs it up because he accidentally touches an object may be exposed to radiation, warn Chernobyl employees. Your countermeasure: You spray chemicals to keep the dust on the ground.
The big business with the ghost town
What draws people to a place like this? It must be the apocalyptic mood, perhaps the shuddering horror that man can do. Currently, the HBO / Sky production "Chernobyl" could still be a driver, as the television station CNN reports. According to local tour operators, the interest of travelers has risen dramatically since the five-part series was on pay channels.
So far, the plant was for most Chernobyl tourists to look at only from the outside. The highlights of a tour were a dilapidated Ferris wheel and the crumbling residential buildings of the nearby ghost town of Pripyat, where 50,000 people were evacuated in the year of the disaster.
Shortly after the start of Chernobyl tourism eight years ago, a court had examined whether such trips are permitted. An Attorney General had protested against the decision of the Ukrainian Ministry of Civil Defense to open the 30-kilometer exclusion zone for mass tourism. But after a brief tour stop the guarded zone had been reopened.
"A general ban on travel will not exist," said travel agency Arseni Finberg at the time. "The Chernobyl tourism business is simply bringing too much money." 85,000 people from all over the world visited Chernobyl earlier this year, writes DailyMail, citing local media.
So it seems to see the Ukrainian government. Interested parties can now visit Reactor 4 as part of a major tourism offensive announced by President Volodymyr Selensky in July. 21 new routes for tourists are announced, Chernobyl should become a top attraction. According to the Telegraph, the government has already renewed checkpoints and routes through the site - and improved mobile coverage. So opulent Instagram postings from the spot is probably not in the way.