Article written by Korova
On 26 April 1986 01:23:45 a.m., reactor number four at the Chernobyl plant, near Pripyat in the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, exploded. Further explosions and the resulting fire sent a plume of highly radioactive fallout into the atmosphere and over an extensive geographical area. Four hundred times more fallout was released than had been by the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.
The plume drifted over extensive parts of the western Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, Western Europe,and Northern Europe, with light nuclear rain falling as far as Ireland.
Large areas in Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia were badly contaminated, resulting in the evacuation and resettlement of over 336,000 people.
According to official post-Soviet data, about 60% of the radioactive fallout landed in Belarus.
Pripyat was founded in 1970 to house the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant workers, and was abandoned in 1986 following the Chernobyl disaster.
Its population had been around 50,000 prior to the accident.
I visited here during the spring of 2008, 22 years after the disaster.
Nature has taken over and it’s now a city in a forest. The birds were singing and the plants in full bloom. It was so surreal being here. We were here for about 6 hours only.
It’s forbidden to enter the buildings in Pripyat now due to most of them being unsafe. Our guide let us into a few, for about 10 minutes so it literally was a case of running about pointing and clicking!
This is checkpoint number 1.
There are 3 checkpoints in total to go through, 30Km from the zone, 10Km from the zone and 5Km from the zone. The guards were NOT friendly at all!
At the 1st checkpoint, they opened the door to the people carrier and shouted “passports” in their language.
My guide handed them over, after a quick glance more words were spoken, the door closed and off we went!
It was quite scary!!!
Once we got into Chernobyl, we were taken to a room where we had to sign the rules & regulations.
Basically if anything happened to us, it would be our own fault, type of thing. No touching anything, no eating, no sitting on the ground, that kind of thing.
From there we made our way to Reactor 4, the power plant. We got a briefing on what happened on 22nd April 1986 then back in the car and taken to the power plant. We were forbidden to take photos of the workers and any other people there. I had my SLR in one hand and my wee digital camera in the other hand and managed to get a few sneaky shots in !! Occasionally you would hear the guide shout “FORBIDDEN” and point at the camera!!
We had a geigercounter on us at all times, it went off on 3 occasions, in the room next to the power plant, at the dodgems at the fairground and outside the school. Basically we just got told to stand back!
You can just see the Plant in the background here.
From there, it was on to Pripyat. The town was built as a “model city” in 1970.
The City Administration building.
Palace of Culture
On to the fairground…
It was due to open 1st May 1986, 4 days after the disaster.
No one ever got to ride the ferris wheel or the dodgems.
From there we went to the hospital. Pripyat hospital is where all victims of the Chernobyl accident were first brought to be treated.
One died from burns while the others were sent to Moscow’s Hospital Number 6 (it specialises in radiation treatment) that evening. Most died agonizing deaths within a few weeks to months. The last to die was a female security guard who stood by her post after the explosions. Her suffering ended after 96 days.
Next on to School Number 2.
Outside the school is one of the most contaminated areas in Pripyat, the moss soaked up most radiation.
The entrance to a block of flats.
A comparison of Pripyat before and after. This is a shot I took of the hotel in the center. Before pictures from pripyat.com
Another one I took of the Palace of Culture.
Slavutych, the town they built to re-home the people evacuated from Chernobyl and Prypiat.
The people are supposed to be as far from radiation as possible, to give their bodies a chance to recover.
So where was the city built? Right on the edge of the exclusion zone… :-/
Back on the road to the checkpoints.
Back through the checkpoints, a radiation scan type thing and we were free to go!
After about 4 hours in Pripyat, we got taken back to Chernobyl where we were given a 4 course meal.
That was an experience in itself!!!
Group shot outside the plant.
[I'm the only girl there, right in the middle at the back!]