Russia seizes Ukraine’s popular tourist zone, Chernobyl

 Friday, February 25, 2022

The Russian military forces have seized control of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, Ukrainian officials say. The Presidential adviser Mykhailo Podoliak said the “totally pointless attack” on Thursday amounted to “one of the most serious threats in Europe today. Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant and the abandoned city of Pripyat are the major tourist attractions in Ukraine. These tourist attractions attract global tourists as dark tourism site.

An explosion at Chernobyl in 1986 led to the worst nuclear disaster in human history, both in cost and casualty. Ukraine’s president warned such a disaster could happen again if Russia continued its invasion.

President Volodymyr Zelensky said that their defenders are giving their lives so that the tragedy of 1986 will not be repeated. This is a declaration of war against the whole of Europe.

The Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has also warned of the possibility of “another ecological disaster” at the site. The Ukrainian officials reported radiation levels had been “exceeded” in a number of places in the area, but Russia said that was not the case.

Chernobyl’s “exclusion zone” – a 32-km (19-mile) radius around the plant – remains largely devoid of human life, 36 years after a faulty reactor caused a major explosion at the plant. The plant’s three other reactors were all shut down by 2000 and it has since been decommissioned. The radiation levels in the area have remained higher than normal from the 1986 leak, chronicled in an eponymous HBO mini-series in 2019 that helped make the site a tourist attraction.

Russian troops reportedly entered the exclusion zone earlier on Thursday before crossing over into Ukraine.

Ukraine’s parliament reported that since Russia had moved into the area, gamma radiation levels had been exceeded at a significant number of observation points, while one official said dust could have been stirred up by heavy vehicles. However, a Russian defence ministry official said background levels were normal. The Russians are among the world’s most experienced nuclear operators, notes Claire Corkhill, a radioactive waste materials professor from the University of Sheffield.

She has worked as part of the international clean-up effort at Chernobyl for the past six years, even visiting the site three times.

The most significant success in these collaborations was the recent construction of a 32,000-tonne dome around the radioactive reactor, funded at a cost of $1.5bn (£1.1bn) by more than 30 countries. Ms Corkhill now worries the invasion of Ukraine will have the effect of pausing these operations.

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