By now you’ve either seen the miniseries or have heard all the hype surrounding HBO’s surprise new hit, ‘Chernobyl.’
Based on the real-life 1986 nuclear disaster, ‘Chernobyl’ takes audiences through the cause of this immense tragedy, the lives that were affected, and how brave men and women banned together to stop further catastrophe from happening.
But with the popularity of HBO’s hit miniseries, there’s been a massive increase of travel to this place of tragedy and death.
‘Chernobyl’ has received major acclaim by both viewers and critics alike. The show is quickly on its way to becoming the most-viewed series ever—which is a win for HBO after the disappointment many felt over the final season of the network’s hit series, ‘Game of Thrones.’
And with the increase in interest in Chernobyl, there seems to be an influx of travelers interested in visiting the tragic city.
But how many of these travelers are interested in the city itself or are just interested in five minutes of social media attention because of the popularity of the show?
And, is Chernobyl and the surrounding area known as the Exclusion Zone safe for visitors?
The tragedy occurred during a late-night safety test when the safety systems were intentionally turned off.
A series of events then occurred that ignited a fire and caused plumes of nuclear fission products to the atmosphere. The radioactive material rained onto parts of the USSR and Europe.
Upon arrival to the city, visitors are screened before entering the 19-mile wide Exclusion Zone—the area which contained the blast. They are told not to touch anything and to not even sit on the ground. They are then screened again upon departure for any radiation exposure or contamination by particle dust that may have occurred during their visit.
The site is still very much radioactive almost 40 years later. While you aren’t likely to get radiation sickness now, at least not from simply walking around, the soil and plants still contain radiation from that fateful night. This is why you are instructed not to touch anything for fear of contamination.
While the city of Pripyat, which is 2 kilometers away from the nuclear site, received much of the radiation blast, it had seen only a small amount of visitors in recent years—around 10,000.
And even they were mainly extreme adventures who were either fascinated by disaster sites or from shows like ‘Ghost Hunters.’
But with the huge increase in visitors, many private tourism companies have begun to spring up. Reports state that tourism is up 40% from this time last year.
Now vendors sell snacks and treats with radioactive symbols outside the city gates.
Tourists rearrange sights for photographs. There are those who laugh and play, and news reporters flock to the site. The tourism comes across as tone-deaf in this place of tragedy and death.
Though they are not needed, tourists walk around in hazmat suits and wave Geiger meters. But is this disaster zone still a place of solemnity? After all, no one knows how many people died as a result of the nuclear tragedy.
The official USSR number is 31.
But the truth is much more tragic.
Experts predict that around 4000 people are likely to have died as a direct result of the accident or will die from cancer as a result of the accident. The radioactive effects of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster are still affecting lives to this day.
And while Chernobyl continues to grow into a kitschy attraction, it is one that is still not entirely safe to visit.
Clean up efforts are still in effect from 1986 and are predicted to continue through at least 2065. The Chernobyl Exclusion Zone is predicted to not be safe or clean for some 20,000 years.
Would you visit the disaster zone of Chernobyl or Pripyat? Do you think travel to the Exclusion Zone is safe? Let us know in the comments below.