We're going to Chernobyl and Pripyat on a Tour!
Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster
On the 26th of April 1986, reactor number four of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant (CNPP) suffered a series of steam explosions caused by unexpected power surges during a SCRAM shutdown. The whole reactor exploded, causing huge amounts of highly radioactive particles to be launched into the atmosphere. To put a sense of scale on level of contamination, radiation levels in the reactor building were estimated to be at 20,000 roentgens per hour. A lethal dose for a human is 500 per hour. Emergency crews were ill prepared for the scale on the accident, which wasn't helped by the USSR's denial it actually happened until alarms were triggered at a Swedish power station over 1000km away.
The devastation it caused is indescribable. Pripyat, the closest town, was abandoned within hours and has remain largely untouched since. A 30 mile "Exclusion Zone" (also know as the Zone of Alienation) has remained in place and access is heavily restricted.
28 years later and many areas are still untouchable. The Red Forest being one of many such sites, which still remains one of the most radioactive places on the planet.
So, I guess you want to know why on earth I want to go there? Good Question.
Exclusion Zone Clearup
Parts of the CNPP, believe it or not, were still in operation until 2000 and decommissioning is still taking place. As people did not leave the area, cleanup of several sites were started straight away. Also, due to the direction of the wind at the time of the disaster, areas to the south were less affected by the fallout, which is where you would find the town of Pripyat. Nowadays, it is possible to travel in the zone and see much of the town and surrounding areas and come into contact with less radiation than an X-ray or even the flight out there.
Exclusion Zone Tourism
(Officially) since 2011, the Ukrainian government has allowed people to enter the exclusion zone on a restricted basis. Everyone is accompanied by a government appointed guide, usually a researcher or scientist at the research base on the edge of the Exclusion Zone. This, coupled with the imminent deconstruction of the reactor towers to make way for the new sarcophagus, means that now is a great time to go (assuming, of course, that Ukraine isn't invaded by Russia or descend into civil war).
I guess my interest started years ago when an amazing game called S.T.A.L.K.E.R. was released. The game is set inside the Exclusion Zone and sees the player travel throughout the cities and countryside, ending up right inside the reactor. Years later, I got into photography - as you may have noticed if you've looked around my site! Personally, there is something incredibly fascinating and a type of beauty I see within decay. The Exclusion Zone, especially the town of Pripyat, offer an amazing opportunity to capture a unique and untouched environment that, given the history of the disaster, will provide memories that will stay with me forever.
Tour of Chernobyl and Pripyat
So, in late May this year, we've booked a 2 day trip around the exclusion zone and a stay in the luxurious Pripyat Hotel (It's not. It's 2*. If that.). I've been doing massive amounts of research over the last month and have it all planned out. I've stocked up on camera batteries, lenses and bodies; and Booked flights and hotels.
I'm going to be putting up a lot more posts around the time, and will of course report back with lots of photos and video :)
If you're interested in visiting the zone as well, we actually have a few spaces still available on our tour, so get in contact with me if you've been tempted!