Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant
April marks the 25th anniversary of the worst nuclear reactor meltdown in history, at Ukraine's Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. If you're in the mood to celebrate, Ukraine has said that at some point in 2011 it will lift restrictions on tourism in the zone around the nuclear power plant, allowing tourists to legally visit the facility for the first time since the disaster turned the nearby city of Pripyat into a ghost town. Private tour firms based in Kiev, 60 miles south of the Chernobyl site, already take Soviet history buffs on tours of the disaster zone, but the Ukrainian government has previously deemed them illegal and unsafe. Today, however, the level of radiation exposure that visitors receive is about what you would get from a trans-Atlantic flight.
In addition to the bragging rights that come with visiting the site of the world's only Level 7 nuclear accident, you'll be able to enjoy the area's wildlife -- including elk, lynx, and eagle owls, which have not only returned to this post-apocalyptical landscape but have flourished over the past quarter century -- and tour abandoned Pripyat, once home to 50,000 residents.
The tours will take place inside the 30-mile exclusion zone set up after the disaster. The area is still heavily contaminated -- the sarcophagus that was hastily built after the meltdown to seal off the exploded reactor is cracking and leaks radiation -- but government spokeswoman Yulia Yershova told the Guardian that tourism routes had been specifically designed to cover the main attractions while avoiding particularly dangerous areas, and that "There are things to see if one follows the official route and doesn't stray away from the group."
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