Is Chernobyl still radioactive?
What are the current levels of radiation in Chernobyl zone? This is perhaps one of the most popular questions that we have been receiving since returning home.
However, first, a brief introduction about what is the Chernobyl zone and how it was ultimately contaminated.
On the night of April 26, 1986, in Ukraine (which back then was a part of USSR), a loud explosion occurred at the Fourth Block of Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant – as a result, the active zone of the reactor was destroyed, and a massive amount of radioactive substances were released into the atmosphere.
Then the radioactive fallout containing cesium-137 and strontium-90, as well as plutonium, americium, and other transuranium elements contaminated the outlying territories.
30-kilometer and 10-kilometer exclusion zones of Chernobyl
The Exclusion Zone was established soon after the Chernobyl disaster in a 30-kilometre (19 mi) radius from Reactor 4 as the designated evacuation area. The inner exclusion zone, just 10 (6mi) kilometres from the reactor site.
Both 30-kilometer and 10-kilometer zones have there own checkpoints. For those who arrive, they check the passports and entrance permits (that are to be made in advance).
The town of Chernobyl, as well as several nearby villages have a normal level of radiation in the air. The radioactive background there does not differ from the one in big cities. When measuring it "in the air", it is about 0.12 uSv/hour.
However, no one can live in this area permanently due to the land, soil, and plants being deeply contaminated with radionuclides. The workers of the Exclusion Zone stay in Chernobyl on a rotational basis – about 2-3 months within six months.
This one is more contaminated. Inside this zone is the Chernobyl station itself, the Red Forest, the antennas of Chernobyl-2 facility and the city of Pripyat.
Here are also radioactive burial grounds with buried equipment, clothing and liquidators’ equipment. Roads are considered to be relatively clean (but not curbs) as the asphalt has been changed several times since 1986.
Kopachi is an abandoned village 4 km away from Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. 1114 inhabitants lived there before the accident but now the village is empty. Just few buildings have not been ran down, including a kindergarten, which attracts tourists and transmits a terrible atmosphere of tragedy.
Not far from Power plant there is an interesting object called «Duga» which was constructed in 1975. Duga (Russian: Дуга) was a Soviet over-the-horizon (OTH) radar system used as part of the Soviet anti-ballistic missile early-warning network.
The height of Duga is about 150 meters, length is 800 meters. The Duga system was extremely powerful and broadcast in the shortwave radio bands shortwave listeners started hearing repetitive tapping noise which led to the system being nicknamed the Russian Woodpecker.
The unclaimed signal was a source for much speculation, giving rise to theories such as Soviet mind control and weather control experiments. After the events of April 26, 1986 its the operation was stopped due to possible damage to electronic equipment.
Unfinished 5 and 6 power units:
The Power Plant should have been even bigger but in 1986, the construction was abandoned along with construction cranes, and throughout the USSR the creation of new nuclear power plants was urgently stopped, and they are still abandoned.
The most contaminated place is an observation deck near the Fourth power unit, which is a part of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. It is a small area with a parking lot, where tourists are often brought to take pictures and receive lots of information about the secrets of this site which you cannot enter. The radiation background is about 4-5 uSv/hour, if the wind blows from the side of the sarcophagus, it can rise to 6-7uSv/hour
Pripyat – temporary evacuation...forever
The population of Pripyat before the Chernobyl accident was almost 50 thousand inhabitants. But on April 27, the day after the disaster, people were "temporary evacuated", as the government tried to hold the incident in secret and people were told that this evacuation was just for a couple of days. People took only the most necessary things and documents, they were promised that they would return home within two or three days. However, none of them returned there. In total, 115 thousand people were evacuated from Pripyat and surrounding settlements
After that, the city's life had to stop.
Truly the city is a gloomy picture – empty high-rise buildings, kindergartens and schools, hospitals, stadiums, shops, a park with attractions, a cinema and a house of culture. It's hard to imagine that crowds of happy people were walking along the streets of this once dynamically developing and prosperous city and children's laughter sounded in the yards and parks.
Now Pripyat's only visitors are tourists, the participants of the liquidation consequences that come to honor the memory of the deceased and the former local residents.
After your visit to Chernobyl is over and it’s time to leave, you must go through radiation control to check if you have any radioactive contamination on your clothing.
Get food in the radioactive canteen?
Everyone who comes to the dining room, go through the radiation control frame. The frame is needed in order to prevent any radionuclides getting close to the premises with food.
Absolutely all products are brought here, no agricultural activities are carried out in exclusion zone.
Measurements of radiation inside the building are normal.
Chernobyl disaster zone lures tourists
More and more people visit Chernobyl every day, and we were really at a loss what tour company to choose. The thing is that you can't just go there alone as it might be not very safe. Also not legal, as you need to get special entry permits in advance and a tour company makes them for you.
So, we started to look for a company that would take us there and decided on Go2Chernobyl.
The guys from the company offered to give a 5% discount to our followers when they found out about our blog! Contact them using our promo code THRILLSEEKERS to get this little bonus :)
Is it absolutely safe to go to Chernobyl?
As you can see, the radiation levels in Chernobyl zone are not that high and are safe for one-day visits to these territories. During the flight in a conventional aircraft at an altitude of 8-10 thousand meters a person stays in much higher radioactive fields (5-8uSv/hour) for several hours.
Why did this happen, where did the "radiation" go, and why is it still forbidden to live in Chernobyl zone?
Background radiation indicators dropped for several reasons – first, the explosion in 1986 created short-lived isotopes like radioactive iodine which left no trace till 2018. The second factor is the decontamination work of the liquidators, who washed the houses and replaced the roads.
Of course, one can not permanently reside in Chernobyl zone – soil and water are extremely contaminated with radionuclides. It is safe for a tourist visit, but utterly incompatible with a permanent residence there. Besides, there are still hazardous spots (of various sizes), which are also very dangerous for a stable life in this place.
Interested in learn quirky facts about Chernobyl?
Fun fact: Did you know as recent as late December 2018 Electronic Music promoters have thrown the first rave at the exclusion zone! Talk about a unique experience!