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Ukraine To Open Chernobyl Area To Tourists 207

Pickens writes "The Washington Post reports that Ukraine plans to open up the sealed zone around the Chernobyl reactor to visitors who wish to learn more about the tragedy that occurred nearly a quarter of a century ago. Emergency Situations Ministry spokeswoman Yulia Yershova says experts are developing travel routes that will be both medically safe and informative. 'There are things to see there if one follows the official route and doesn't stray away from the group,' says Yershova. Though it is a very sad story.' The ministry also says it hopes to finish building a new safer shell for the exploded reactor by 2015 that will cover the original iron-and-concrete structure hastily built over the reactor that has been leaking radiation, cracking and threatening to collapse. About 2,500 employees maintain the remains of the now-closed nuclear plant, working in shifts to minimize their exposure to radiation and several hundred evacuees have returned to their villages in the area despite a government ban."
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Ukraine To Open Chernobyl Area To Tourists

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  • wait, what? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Swampash ( 1131503 ) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @06:12AM (#34544336)
    But Greenpeace told me that half the frickin' Ukraine was going to be instant radioactive death for ten thousand years...
    • by Third Position ( 1725934 ) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @06:20AM (#34544366)

      Well, most amusement parks are overhyped. Advertising, you know...

    • by troon ( 724114 )

      the ... Ukraine

      See frame 4 []...

    • Re:wait, what? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by h4rm0ny ( 722443 ) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @07:25AM (#34544650) Journal
      Some people seem to think that if you don't instantly die, then everything's fine. Never mind if incidence of cancer or birth deformities sky-rocketed for people in areas of radioactive fall-out, if people's heads aren't exploding, it's "Green Hysteria."

      I'd love to visit the place, mind you. I hear that their restaurants serve a lovely leg of fish.
    • Cite?

  • by gmhowell ( 26755 ) <> on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @06:21AM (#34544368) Homepage Journal

    Will motorcycle tours [] be offered?

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Wasn't that completely discredited as being entirely fake? From what I remember, the girl never went there in a motorcycle, couldn't have gotten one of those passes to enter the area, her father isn't a scientist, and it's quite likely she never took any of those pictures.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        She went on the tour bus with everyone else. She just took a motorcycle helmet.
        The admission is on her site. She said it was more about telling the story than her going on an adventure. That's her justification, anyway.

      • by caseih ( 160668 )

        She certainly didn't drive her motorcycle through there, her father isn't a scientist, and she certainly isn't the only person to go there. She did, however, take the pictures. If I recall it turned out she just went on one of the many exclusion zone tours that have been going through there for years.

    • Debunked as a fake in 2004 []. Note: irritating 1998-style website at link. You have been warned. Turn off javascript before proceeding.
      • by AltairDusk ( 1757788 ) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @10:57AM (#34546090)

        Here's the relevant post for those who don't wish to brave the horrors of that site's design:


        chernobyl motorcycling fake! ( on 4/30/2004 11:22 PM )

        Chornobyl "Ghost Town" story is a fabrication
        e-POSHTA subscriber Mary Mycio writes:

        I am based in Kyiv and writing a book about Chornobyl for the Joseph Henry Press. Several sources have sent me links to the "Ghost Town" photo essay included in the last e-POSHTA mailing. Though it was full of factual errors, I did find the notion of lone young woman riding her motorcycle through the evacuated Zone of Alienation to be intriguing and asked about it when I visited there two days ago.

        I am sorry to report that much of Elena's story is not true. She did not travel around the zone by herself on a motorcycle. Motorcycles are banned in the zone, as is wandering around alone, without an escort from the zone administration. She made one trip there with her husband and a friend. They traveled in a Chornobyl car that picked them up in Kyiv.

        She did, however, bring a motorcycle helmet. They organized their trip through a Kyiv travel agency and the administration of the Chornobyl zone (and not her father). They were given the same standard excursion that most Chernobyl tourists receive. When the Web site appeared, Zone Administration personnel were in an uproar over who approved a motorcycle trip in the zone. When it turned out that the motorcycle story was an invention, they were even less pleased about this fantasy Web site.

        Because of those problems, Elena and her husband have changed the Web site and the story considerably in the last few days. Earlier versions of the narrative lied more blatantly about Elena taking lone motorcycle trips in the zone. That has been changed to merely suggest that she does so, which is still misleading.

        I would not normally bother to correct someone's silly Chornobyl fantasy. Indeed, correcting all the factual errors and falsehoods in "Ghost Town" would consume as much space as the Web site itself. But the motorcycle story was such an outrageous fiction that I thought the readers of e-Poshta should know.

        Mary Mycio, J.D.

        Legal Program Director
        IREX U-Media
        Shota Rustaveli St. 38b, No. 16
        Kyiv 01023, Ukraine
        Tel: (380-44) 220-6374, 228-6147
        Fax: 227-7543

        New Information, added Sep 19 / 04
        Hey this is too much trouble to get logged in to your website to make a posting. I have known Elena for years, so I know how much is fake and how much is true. I know that her birthday is Feb 24, 1974, so she is 30 and not 26. I know that she cannot even ride a bike. the bike is her ex husbands. She has been divorced for 5 years. she can only ride a bicycle or little scooter.

        [last edit 9/20/2004 12:41 AM by Avatar-X - edited 3 times]

      • One nutter claiming something is false doesn't really amount to a debunking.

  • Wait... (Score:4, Funny)

    by ZDRuX ( 1010435 ) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @06:22AM (#34544380)
    What could POSSIBLY go wrong?
    • Re:Wait... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by nicholas22 ( 1945330 ) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @06:26AM (#34544396)
      Nothing. There is little background radiation in most places and I'm pretty certain they'll want to avoid taking you to places with higher radiation if they want this tourism thing to last. Don't forget, there are people who *live* in that area and have lived for almost their entire life. So, a visit of a few days, so long as it does not involve taking you to any highly dangerous places, e.g. the core itself, should really be fine.
      • Don't eat any mushroom omelet though. []

      • Re:Wait... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by will_die ( 586523 ) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @07:37AM (#34544702) Homepage
        There is alot of background radiation, above normal levels, there. At reator #4, the one that blew, as soon as the doors to the vans opened the gieger counters went off. At that place it was around 5x normal levels. Most places were only 2x-3x unless you got near metal structure or some buildings.
        When we got to the ferris wheel the guides stired up places where dust had collected due to rain water and that gave alarms of around 18x normal levels.
        If you go by what we were told the amount of extra radiation we got from the day there was less then the amount of extra radiation a flight from NYC to Paris would of given.
        • by geekoid ( 135745 )

          "as soon as the doors to the vans opened the gieger counters went off."

          Sound awful...wait, it's meaningless. That will happen anywhere int he world, in fact, you could even be going off in the van.

      • Cue:
        - rabies vaccinations
        - fixed path through buildings that underwent renovation
        - fences to keep visitors from leaving the fixed route
        - strong fences to keep bigger wild animals at bay
        - security to move stragglers who stay behind...

        Radiation is the least of the problems and there's really nothing that could go wrong with it. OTOH, the zone has grown very wild and desolate, and is not really a safe place to be in. Rabies is common in wild animals (and there is a major population of them), the buildings, roa

      • I wonder if "nicholas22" is in fact the guy selling the tour tickets ? People like that are either remarkably stupid or phenomenally ignorant! The area is contaminated for hundreds of miles away from Chernobyl, going directly near the place of a readioactive fallout, well, that`s nothing short of idiocy! Scientists state that they have discovered a link between Chernobyl and cancer in younger patients in Italy. Hell, if people are affected in Italy, you`d think going directly to Chernobyl may not be healthy
    • Well, if you're in a sealed bus probably not that much. For years after the disaster, they used to make guards stand in the rain inside the exclusion zone, keeping regular people out and letting the workers who ran the remaining operational reactors in. Now that is a sucky job.

    • You would probably get more radiation exposure from the TSA to fly over there and back....
  • by nounderscores ( 246517 ) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @06:27AM (#34544400)

    I know that the most interesting places will be the apartment buildings and other structures where the cold war era artifacts are left untouched. I hope that they stay that way, and don't get sanitised or removed by tourists. The first tour of the area will probably be the best.

    • by syousef ( 465911 )

      I know that the most interesting places will be the apartment buildings and other structures where the cold war era artifacts are left untouched. I hope that they stay that way, and don't get sanitised or removed by tourists. The first tour of the area will probably be the best.

      Is that because you'll get use to the green glow in a short time, or because it will be your last tour of anything?

    • by will_die ( 586523 ) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @07:31AM (#34544678) Homepage
      I was there in July, part of the "illegal"(yea sure since the government gets a portion of the fee) tours.
      Most places are in ruins and falling apart, anything of value has been stripped from inside the building. You do have large soviet items that are to big to haul away, that are left. What you get in the building are books, bottles, desks ,etc.
      You have to worry about nails, broken glass, etc. So I am afraid the government will clean up the area put down carpeting and ropes and make it museum instead of place you have wander around. However as it is I would guess the government is going to close down the private tours and control the whole thing, they will advertise it more and take bus loads of people instead of the smaller vans currently used.
      that said it was one of the best tours I have ever been on, and will probably go again, would like to do one of the overnight tours so I can get farther into the city.
      One other thing about them doing this is that Kyiv is the location of some upcoming European football tournament so they are having lots of people coming and doing lots of upgrades and contructions, new airport, new hotels etc. As it is Kyiv is not that tourist friendly but is a great place to go to now.
    • by fantomas ( 94850 ) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @07:41AM (#34544716)

      You hope that tourists don't wreck "it".

      The problem I think is deciding what "it" is. The state of the area on 13 December 2010? What happens if a tourist breaks off a piece of something / steals something? do you put a replica in its place? What happens if there is heavy snowfall this year or rainstorms and these threaten to damage the soviet murals in the buildings or even collapse a roof of a building. Do you let them collapse, rebuild them, actively preserve them in some state?

      This is the dilemma - what is the state you want to keep things in? Clearly the place has been touched by people, weather, and wildlife since (1986 was it?) - there's decay, graffitti, some stuff has been moved or stolen. What are your feelings? is it a tourist park, or a memorial, or other? Historians and cultural experts all have opinions about this.

      Close to home, in the town I live in, Bletchley Park also has this issue to a small degree. They are always struggling for money but one question they have to think about is what state to preserve the place. A lot of the the famous codebreaking huts are in really poor condition - but then they were only designed as temporary wooden buildings to last a few years in the war. Now 70 years on their cheap constructions are falling apart. Do we freeze them somehow? tear them down and build replicas (but maybe to higher quality so they last longer and can survive tourists)? Do we save what is left and incorporate some of that original material alongside new material (replacing rotten wood, etc?

      A big challenge for cultural preservation everywhere. What is the purpose of the Chernobyl area? What do you do when the buildings become unsafe because the weather has got in and they are in danger of falling down?

      • by vlm ( 69642 )

        Obviously do both. Its an accumulation of little artifacts not one individual artifact. You could have fun and maintain every other building and let every other building decay, plus or minus the collapse footprint.

      • Neither by the public, nor by those who have the care of public monuments, is the true meaning of the word restoration understood. It means the most total destruction which a building can suffer: a destruction out of which no remnants can be gathered: a destruction accompanied with false description of the thing destroyed. Do not let us deceive ourselves in this important matter; it is impossible, as impossible as to raise the dead, to restore anything that has ever been great or beautiful in architecture.


      • In it's current state is part memorial part tourist site and part educational site.
        By wrecking it I would probably mean cleaning it up, proping items up and making it safe for a 3 year olds to run around.
        the place is interesting because of the way nature has been destroying it. Places are collapsing and in the Pripyay hotel you even have a tree growing in the floor the top level old bar.
        As for what will happen as the building fall and become unsafe they will no longer be visited, and marked as unsafe.
    • by MrZilla ( 682337 )

      There have been tourist trips to Chernobyl for over a decade already. I was there this summer.

      Pripyat is already wrecked, since there have been a lot of looters going through the area. Our guide told us that the apartment buildings are completely stripped by now, even the toilet seats are gone.

      We visited an abandoned school as well. The old swimming pool area had obviously been used by kids who went there to drink Vodka and smash the place.

  • []

    Regardless of any controversy over how the pictures were taken, they and the commentary are interesting nonetheless.

    • Based on that website, I had played with the idea of getting in there myself for years. Lack of funds and lack of a motorcycle made the idea remain... an idea.
      However, I would be more inclined to explore thar fairly vast territory by myself, not in a big safe can with 30 strangers and following a predefined path. It would be just like looking at 3D documentaries, sans the comfort.
    • Thanks for that link, that's an interesting site.
  • Tourist, Rincewind decided, meant "idiot".

    — Terry Pratchett, The Colour of Magic

    • well "traveller", as in "hey man, I am a traveller, not a tourist!" - means a tourist with pretensions.

      I had great fun backpacking round the world and telling the international hippy set that I was most definitely a tourist, not a "traveller'. Either you live somewhere, or you're just touring through it, or you're popping in for a quick look.

      And yup, most of the time you're a fish out of water and a total idiot. But hey, we all got to get along. I put up with dumb Americans in my neighbourhood and gently tr

  • by Arancaytar ( 966377 ) <> on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @06:58AM (#34544546) Homepage

    That thing is a mess, and they're struggling to contain it even after decades. They should nuke the site from orbit, it's the only way to be--- oh, wait.

  • RE: Already Open (Score:5, Informative)

    by Archon-X ( 264195 ) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @07:15AM (#34544614)

    Actually, the area is already open to a plethora of tourists and buses. You pay your $50USD, and you get taken through the exclusion zone(s), stopping at the monuments, reactor, and Pripryat.

    Some snaps from my trip, for the interested: []

    The reactor: []
    'The' hotel in Pripryat []
    Roof of the hotel, with the reactor in the background [Note, this was seen by 'straying from the group ;)] []
    Neat shot of some of the hidden murels []

  • by timbo234 ( 833667 ) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @07:19AM (#34544624) Journal

    Some friends of mine did a tour through there - to within ~200 metres of the reactor 'sarcophagus' a few months ago. These tours have been running for years now form several different operators. Look up any travel website or just google 'chernobyl tours' and you'll find plenty about this.

    I read the article but still can't understand WTF it's about when you consider these tours have been going on for years.

  • nearly a quarter of a century ago

    I suppose the more succinct and arguably more precise "24 years ago" or "in 1986" sounds so ordinary (to a journalist's ears, at least.

  • Interesting... (Score:5, Informative)

    by SharpFang ( 651121 ) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @07:42AM (#34544718) Homepage Journal

    AFAIK, the zone is already open for tourists. In guided tours, with authorized guides, the tour takes at most a day, visitors are screened for radiation levels upon entering and exitting and the guide has an active geiger counter at all times (which is one of major attractions too). At least a few travel agencies in Poland and Ukraine offer these tours (e.g. link [])

    The route, time and organization of these tours really minimizes all radiation-related danger to bare minimum and as long as you follow the guide, there is no risk of overexposure whatsoever. (still, the free-roaming of Pripyat part of the tour, on the other hand, has a considerable risk of getting hurt by parts of ruined buildings.)

    The zone is in major part uncontaminated and totally harmless (save for rabid wolves, collapsing roofs of houses, getting lost and freezing to death, wild boars and the likes) but there are still many smaller or bigger patches of more radioactive areas - not radioactive enough to harm you if you cross in a car or even walking at a fast pace, but enough to mean somewhat heightened cancer risk if you camp there for a night. Generally, if you have a geiger counter and an inch of brain to follow what it says, radiation is not a danger - the count rises, you turn around. If you are an experienced hiker and have some rudimentary means of defense from wild animals, you can spend weeks in the zone just fine.

    Generally, obtaining permission to enter the zone is not very hard. Many Airsoft groups organize their games there for example. Which areas you are allowed to enter and for how long, is a different matter. You get day permissions at most for Pripyat, but for example, the far west of the zone is pretty open and accessible - the standard 30km perimeter around the power plant has been extended about 30km more to the east-north-east where one of two major clouds of contamination struck. That cloud was long, wide, but more stretched, so the levels near that border of the zone have already dropped to entirely safe levels by now and getting a prolonged permit for that area is not a problem at all.

  • by chrislott ( 1785872 ) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @08:07AM (#34544800)
    I highly recommend reading the book _Wolves Eat Dogs_ by Martin Cruz Smith for a fictionalized account of chasing criminals thru the Zone of Exclusion. Lots of details about radiation, residents who stayed, and the disaster itself. Don't know how close it is to truth of course. Disclaimer: he's my favorite mystery writer.
  • do we get to see thunderdome in bartertown?

  • by jnelson4765 ( 845296 ) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @08:19AM (#34544864) Journal

    I got to see a presentation given by a nuclear scientist who went there last year on a vacation - it can be done, but it takes at least one person in the tour that speaks decent Russian. Wild pictures - growing up at the end of the Cold War, seeing an abandoned, looted Soviet-era city is a little creepy.

    Scratch that, a whole bunch of creepy.

    The guy doing the presentation had his own geiger counter, and was showing just how hot some areas of Chernobyl still were. It was wild stuff, and sobering...

    • No it does not. There are tours that go there most days out of Kyiv. A little over $100 US and off you go. For around $400 USD,IIRC, you can have a private tour. It is all in english, other languages are available.
      Check out
      • I assumed GP was referring to getting a tour from a nuclear scientist when he mentioned wanting a tour member that speaks Russian.
  • It would also be a good idea for the tour to include all of the hospitals that take in the young children affected - twenty years later - by the Chernobyl disaster.
  • by Ancient_Hacker ( 751168 ) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @08:46AM (#34544972)

    Touring Chernobyl is like walking across a freeway blindfolded, because it's okay, you can't hear any cars.

    You see:

    (1) The "Quiet Prius" prob: You basic inexpensive Geiger counter, for durability, has a thickish diaphragm over its sensor, which blocks alpha and beta radiation. The element of most concern is Plutonium, which is an Alpha emitter. So, as listening for traffic is not very efficacious at discerning quiet cars, a geiger counter is of no help, indeed, it's less than helpful.

    (2) The "Quiet on the average" prob: It does not help that traffic sounds quiet. All it takes is one car to send you flying. Similarly, it does not matter that the radiation level is, on the average, low. All it takes is one particle of Plutonium, nestled against a lung cell, to start a cancer. The cell does not care that averaged over a day, over your whole body, you just picked up a millirad. All it knows is that an alpha particle just smashed into its DNA and caused a mutation. Yes, DNA has some self-repair mechanisms but they're not foolproof.

    (3) The "Ivana made it okay" prob-- it does not matter that some dame allegedly snapped some pics years ago. She may be dead or dying now. Plus we will never know how many folks took a similar trip but are now too sick or too dead to post their pics.

    (4) The "But Ivan made it across" prob-- It does not matter that your tour guide has been there a dozen times-- You don't know how many other guides are now in the Kiev Home for Comrades With Bad Coughs Who Eventually Keel Over.

    Maybe the analogy isn't so bad. Think about whether you'd walk across a quiet freeway before you sign up for this trip.

    • Maybe the analogy isn't so bad. Think about whether you'd walk across a quiet freeway before you sign up for this trip.

      Am I blind in this analogy?

      • (Because I'm blind on slashdot. But I mean, I peer out from beneath blindfolds. Maybe I'm just putting too much anal in the analysis, and not enough coffee)

    • by khallow ( 566160 ) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @11:12AM (#34546276)
      Your analogy is stupid. Just because you don't understand the risks of a short visit to Chernobyl doesn't mean that everyone else is as clueless. For example, for point 1, just buy a geiger detector that picks up alpha particles. Problem solved.

      Second, a highway has clearly defined borders. There's no similar border between the land near the cask at Chernobyl and your lungs wherever in the world you happen to be. Third, any plutonium from Chernobyl has had decades to chemically bind in Earth's highly reactive environment. Fourth, you're probably taking risks right now, such as driving or taking a shower, which are probably far more dangerous to your long term health than a little time at Chernobyl.

      Finally, no matter where you are on Earth's surface, you are in a high radiation environment. Right this minute you are exposed to scary, dangerous stuff like cosmic rays, radon and other uranium and thorium decay products, and even some long term decay products from the nuclear bomb tests and large scale nuclear accidents like Chernobyl. What makes a trip to Chernobyl even slightly increase your risk of dying from scary, dangerous radiation?
    • by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @11:43AM (#34546652) Journal

      (1) The "Quiet Prius" prob: You basic inexpensive Geiger counter, for durability, has a thickish diaphragm over its sensor, which blocks alpha and beta radiation. The element of most concern is Plutonium, which is an Alpha emitter.

      My bench top pancake style geiger counter detects alpha particles from 35S and beta particles from 32P just fine. I'm sure it would handle plutonium no problem.

      (2) The "Quiet on the average" prob: It does not help that traffic sounds quiet. All it takes is one car to send you flying. Similarly, it does not matter that the radiation level is, on the average, low. All it takes is one particle of Plutonium

      All it takes is one cosmic ray, or one decay from an atom of phosphorous in a banana, etc. etc. Risk is proportional to dose. It's managable.

      (3) The "Ivana made it okay" prob-- it does not matter that some dame allegedly snapped some pics years ago. She may be dead or dying now. Plus we will never know how many folks took a similar trip but are now too sick or too dead to post their pics.

      If we can estimate the exposure, we can calculate exactly how many people we'd expect to get cancer from such an expedition. Again risk is proportional to dose.

    • by geekoid ( 135745 )

      1) All the Gieger counter I ave used have different settings for sensitivity

      1a.) the 'prius problem' is a made up problem.

      2) No ti doesn't. In fact it's complex. This is why it's talked about in the terms of increase probability.

      3) true. Any effects she would have would start appear in 10 years.

      4) It's a horrific analogy born from a unholy mating between ignorance and fear.

  • Come kids, take a picture of the two-headed radioactive squirrel to show back to mummy when we go back.
  • if they created a Root Canal Island. :)
  • by wiredog ( 43288 ) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @09:40AM (#34545306) Journal

    Here [].

  • Queue Obligatory "In Soviet Russia..." in 3...2...1...

  • I can just see the T-Shirts now...

    I toured Chernobyl and all I got was this lousy third testicle!

  • Ah. A vacation that leaves you with a nice healthy glow! What could be better!
    But seriously, sign me up. The research possibilities are endless. All the sci-fi mutant stuff of "S.t.a.l.k.e.r" aside, seeing how life responds and adapts to that type of environment is fascinating.

  • There goes my plan to strike it rick, buy the Chernobyl area from Ukraine, and set up my own little soviet nation...
  • A few years back there was a great HD documentary on the wildlife returning to the area. They followed the lives of several animals (I think a cat and a wolf for one). Wildlife is doing very well, but apex predators are accumulating large doses of radiation from being at the top of the food chain. Who knows what effects that will have, but I was amazed at how well the ecosystem rebounded. I guess I was expecting a Mad Max landscape.

If you suspect a man, don't employ him.