On April 26, 1986, the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine (formerly part of the Soviet Union) exploded, and the worst nuclear accident in history took place. The USSR tried to cover-up the accident but high levels of radiation were detected by Swedish scientists who alerted the rest of the world. There onward a large radioactive cloud blew across much of Europe and as far as America and Canada.
What happened & where is Chernobyl
The Chernobyl Power plant is situated 130 km north of the capital city Kiev, Ukraine, and about 20 km south of the border with Belarus. The nearest town to the Chernobyl power plant was the newly built city of Pripyat which was just under 3 km away with a population of almost 49,000 people in 1986. A smaller and older town, Chernobyl, was about 15 km away and home to about 12,000 people. The explosion started after routine maintenance check on the Power Station’s fourth nuclear reactor. A combination of poor design and human error set in motion a chain of events that proved catastrophic and are still being felt to this day. Operators were ordered to turn off vital safety control systems which led to temperatures rising above 2000°C, which caused the fuel-rods to melt. In turn, this ignited the graphite covering the fuel rods and a huge explosion blew off the 1000-ton sealing cap on the reactor. Then the graphite covering the fuel rods caught on fire. The reactor burned for nine days, steadily releasing extreme levels of radiation. Radioactive debris rained over the area whilst fire spread quickly to adjacent buildings. To this day Chernobyl and the surrounding area remain highly contaminated and will remain so for thousands of years.
Pripyat is often referred to as Chernobyl's ghost town. What once was a proud flagship Nuclear town of the former USSR, now stands abandoned, an eerily empty wasteland frozen in time. Pripyat was opened in 1970 and was primarily built to house the workers and families at the nearby Chernobyl nuclear power plant just under 3 km's away. It is situated in northern Ukraine, near the Ukraine–Belarus border. At the time of the Chernobyl explosion in 1986, the population had grown to almost 49,000 people. Now it is abandoned and much of it has been reclaimed by nature and wild animals.
On April 26th 1986 at 1:23:58 a.m. the first explosion occurred, which was then quickly followed by at least one more explosion, blows the 1,000-ton roof right off reactor number 4 and shoots a fireball and radioactive debris high into the night sky. Despite the clear danger to the residents of Pripyat, the authorities in Moscow failed to acknowledge the danger to life, and it was not until 11:00 am on the 27th of April that the first buses arrived to evacuate the population. By that time many people were already suffering the initial affects of radiation poisoning and consequently many have since lost their lives.
Chernobyl control room
The heroes of Chernobyl who risked their lives.
Helicopters putting out the fire on reactor number 4 in Chernobyl.
Ferris wheel in central Pripyat.
Is it Safe to visit Chernobyl & Pripyat
Some areas of Chernobyl and Pripyat are still highly radioactive. To contain the radiation Chernobyl has been covered by a giant metal sarcophagus which cost 1.3 billion pounds. Providing you follow your tour guides advice it is unlikely you will suffer any radiation poisoning. You will not be able to enter the exclusion zones unless you have booked an official tour guide. There are two exclusion zones in Chernobyl, a 10km inner zone and a 30km outer Exclusion Zone. Check HOW TO BOOK A TOUR for full details.
How do I book a Tour
There is a strict 30 km exclusion zone around Chernobyl and you will only be allowed to visit if you have booked an official government endorsed Tour Guide. There are a number of companies offering different types tours. We have chosen what we consider to be the best. CLICK HERE to find out more and BOOK A TOUR to Chernobyl and Pripyat.
Chernobyl National Museum in Kiev
A trip to visit Chernobyl and Pripyat from Kiev (Kyiv) takes about 2 hours each way and will take the whole day to see. An alternative to taking a whole day out of your schedule could be to visit the Chernobyl National Museum in Kiev. CLICK HERE to discover more.