Inside Pripyat – Visiting the exclusion zone of Chernobyl

Road to Pripyat

Most people know about the Chernobyl tragedy which happened in 1986. Reactor 4 exploded and released a radiation cloud that covered most parts of Europe. Today, a lot of people still work to keep the radiation levels down.  The area is mainly uninhabited except for the workers who stay. Some people don’t know that you can visit the exclusion zone with permission. The only way to get this is by booking a tour. Is it dangerous? No, the radiation level in the exclusion zone is generally lower than in large cities. You will end up with less radiation than a medical X-ray. You get tested before leaving the exclusion zone.

The tour arranges your transport and your permit to the exclusion zone. Keep in mind that you can’t book the tours last-minute, as they need to request the permit for you.

A friend and I booked a tour in September 2016. We departed early in the morning. Our first stop was… the checkpoint of course.

We then proceeded to a kindergarten on the road.

We passed some offices where people come to work for 2 weeks. Afterwards, they return home and stay for 2 weeks before returning to the exclusion zone again.

Next: A visit to the reactor. A new sarcophagus has been built and placed over the reactor since November 2016. We visited in September 2016 so we could still see the reactor.

Afterwards, we proceeded to Pripyat, the town close to the nuclear power plant. Pripyat was one of the most affected areas. The drive between the reactor and Pripyat was a road with forests on both sides. They named it the red forest because after the accident the trees died and turned red. New trees started to grow and the place is now green again. The radiation was above normal on this road so we didn’t stop. At the statue of Pripyat, the radiation dropped again.

A big school and swimming pool in Pripyat.

We came across the famous amusement park of Pripyat.

An abandoned classroom in Pripyat.

The hall of the school. It looks like a scene from a horror movie…

Music class in the Pripyat school.

The school hall with thousands of gas masks in it…

Our last stop was at Duga. This over-the-horizon radar system was built during the Cold War and made a repetitive tapping noise on the radio and television which led to nickname this system the Russian Woodpecker. A Ukrainian producer made a conspiracy documentary about this huge project. He interviewed several people who were involved in the maintenance of the reactor and also workers of the Duga. He claims that the reactor was put in meltdown on purpose to cover up failures of the radar. There is no real evidence whether this is true or not.

We then proceeded back to Kyiv. At the checkpoint of the exclusion zone, we were tested for radiation.

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