(by Philip Caulfield, NYDailyNews.com) – …Ukraine is opening Chernobyl as a tourist destination in 2011.
The area around the notorious nuclear power plant, site of a massive explosion that blanketed Europe with radioactive material nearly 25 years ago, will be open to the public.
A 30-mile radius surrounding the plant has been declared off limits ever since the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant’s No. 4 reactor exploded on April 26, 1986 – the worst nuclear power plant disaster in history.
More than 350,000 were resettled from contaminated areas in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia and death tolls ranged from dozens to thousands.
But Ukraine’s Emergency Situations Ministry said that radiation is returning to normal levels and that the so-called exclusion zone would make an ideal attraction for tourists interested in learning about the site and its tainted history.
“The Chernobyl zone isn’t as scary as the whole world thinks,” ministry spokesperson Yulia Yurshova told The Wall Street Journal. “We want to work with big tour operators and attract Western tourists, from whom there’s great demand.”
About 2,500 people work at the now-closed plant to maintain its remains and try to limit radiation exposure.
Yurshova said tour operators would have to meet strict criteria and that tour routes would travel through predetermined routes. Straying from the tour would not be recommended.
The ministry also said Ukraine hopes to complete a new shell to cover the destroyed No. 4 reactor by 2015, replacing the current protective structure, which is falling apart and leaking radiation.
Although the plan to allow visitors to sightsee through abandoned towns near a leaking nuclear power plant is sure to raise eyebrows, some world officials support the idea.
“Personally I think there is an opportunity to tell a story here and of course the process of telling a story, even a sad story, is something that is positive in economic terms and positive in conveying very important messages,” said United Nations Development Program chief Helen Clark in a statement.
Some private firms already run tours through the area, though the government said these tours are illegal and threaten tourists’ safety.
Yershova told The Journal that about 6,000 people visit area per year, paying about $150 for a daytrip.
On one existing tour, visitors can check out the remains of the number No. 4 reactor and take measurements of radiation levels. Lunch is served, though food is delivered from outside the exclusion zone, The Guardian reported.
With Wire News Services.
Reprinted here for educational purposes only. May not be reproduced on other websites without permission from The New York Daily News. Visit the website at nydailynews.com.
1. a) Where is Chernobyl?
b) What happened at Chernobyl in 1986?
2. a) Define resettle.
b) How many people were resettled from contaminated areas in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia?
3. a) According to Ministry spokesperson Yulia Yurshova, why is Ukraine opening Chernobyl to tourists?
b) What is likely the stronger, unstated reason for opening Chernobyl to tourists?
4. How many people work at the now-closed Chernobyl plant – what do they do there?
5. a) If you had the opportunity, would you visit Chernobyl? Explain your answer.
b) Ask a parent the same question.
THE CHERNOBYL DISASTER:
For a report “Chernobyl 20 years later” from the BBC that includes photos, go to news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/in_depth/europe/2006/chernobyl/default.stm.