In 1986, the clock stopped when a catastrophic accident wrecked the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant’s reactor, releasing tonnes of toxic radioactive particles into the atmosphere across Europe and western USSR. While only 31 deaths have been recorded, 500,000 plant workers were exposed to toxic radiation and over 350,000 civilians fled and resettled from the disaster site, leaving nearby towns and cities completely abandoned.
While Ukrainian officials estimate that the area will not be safe for human life until another 20,000 years, tourists are allowed to explore the town for a limited time. Visitors may explore the remains of Reactor 4, where the nuclear accident took place, and the nearby ghost town of Pripyat. Abandoned school houses, theme parks, shops, and hospitals look frightening and fascinating at the same time, as if the area was forsaken by time. Because of the absence of humans, local wildlife has invaded the area. Now and then, visitors can spot lynx cats, horses, wolves, and wild boars scuttling around town.
It takes between 300 and 500 roentgens per hour of radiation to deliver a lethal dose, but in tours levels range only from 15 to several hundred micro-roentgens per hour. For safety purposes, Chernobyl tours end with a screening for radiation levels.
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