A day trip to Chernobyl and Pripyat

Why go to Chernobyl?

In 1989 one of the 4 nuclear reactors at Chernobyl had a meltdown. The Soviets evacuated an area with a radius of 30km. To this day the area remains contaminated and largely uninhabitable. I will not discuss all the details of the disaster, those you can read here.

My interest in this place started when I was in high school. Our class watched a documentary during geography class and after a subsequent Google search I found out that I could visit this place. Unfortunately I did not find the opportunity to visit it back then:(

However, this changed last year when my dad proposed we take a trip together. My dad is quite jealous of my trip to North Korea. Therefore, we decided to head to Europe’s last dictatorship; Belarus. However we would visit Kiev and Chernobyl before.

Pripyat sign with fox

The sign of Pripyat with of wild fox

Did I glow in the dark when I got back?

When I told people about this trip many called me insane. Radiation is something many people don’t understand properly and are afraid of. I knew it wasn’t as bad anymore, especially now that the new radiation shield is in place over the reactor.

Our tour guide showed us some calculations with respect to the amount of radiation we would receive on our day trip. I will not bother you with these. A person receives a dose of radiation 10 times higher when taking a flight from Kiev to Toronto than a day trip to Chernobyl. You don’t believe me? Check out this video!

So no I did not glow in the dark afterwards;)

Chernobyl kindergarten shoe window

“You’ve got 45 seconds!”

After a 2 hour drive and a military checkpoint we arrived in the town of Chernobyl. Today people that work at the reactors live in this town. The town is fully functioning with shops, a fire department, police station etc. It is here that I heard something I hadn’t heard before. Radioactive material had covered the roof of one of the neighbouring reactors. The roof could not stay contaminated, but the clean-up was too dangerous for humans. The Soviets sent robots form their space program on to the roof, but these robots failed after a couple of hours. Left with no other options the Soviets send people to clear the roof. These people only had 45 seconds before they reached a fatal dose of radiation.

Robot Chernobyl

Post-apocalyptic ghost town

By far the most interesting part of the tour is walking through the town of Pripyat. Pripyat was home to over 40,000 people and the Soviets evacuated the town in a matter of hours. The residents were never to return.

After the Soviets avoided a second explosion at the power plant they started cleaning up Pripyat. Most items were too contaminated despite their efforts and the city remains a ghost town to this day.

Walking around Pripyat truly feels like being in a post-apocalyptic town. The feeling is hard to describe, but it puts all the stories in perspective. I highly recommend everybody to visit Chernobyl. Pripyat is very impressive and it is bound to change your views on nuclear energy.

Chernobyl pool

The Russian woodpecker

Our next stop was a radar array. This isn’t just any radar dish, but this is a top-secret radar dish built by the Soviets. I was not sure what to expect, but our guide told us that the surrounding forest was planted just to hide this radar array.

As we got closer the array suddenly appeared through the trees. It is absolutely enormous! It is difficult to capture its size in a picture, but at is 800 meters long and 150 meters high. Next to this, I was surprised by the state the dish was in. Apart from some spots of rust it was still intact.

This radar array was used to detect the launch of a nuclear ICBM by the USA. It also created an interference on radio stations, which could be heard throughout Europe. You can hear it in this video. People appropriately called this disturbance the Russian woodpecker.

Radar array chernobyl

I hope you enjoyed this post and would love to hear what you think in the comments!

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