Nuclear blast site Chernobyl to open for tourists

Posted by Mark Raby

For nearly 25 years, the Ukranian government has prohibited any non-authorized individual from visiting the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, due to radiation concerns that still exist. However, that's soon going to change.

The Emergency Situations Ministry of Ukraine said this week it will finally be opening up the infamous power plant for tourists in 2011.

A reactor in the plant exploded on April 26, 1986, contaminating an area spanning tens of miles. Hundreds of thousands of residents were ordered to move and it has become the source of many sci-fi plots, igniting the imagination of the modern society.

No one can dispute the historical significance of Chernobyl, but opening it up for historians and tourists has been a dangerous thought because of radiation exposure. Today, there are still numerous people living with health problems because of the blast.

Unofficial tours of the facility have sprung up over the last few years, attracting curious people from all over the world. But those tours are illegal, and potentially hazardous. That's why the government is stepping up and offering a safe, official way to see the plant.

"There are things to see there if one follows the official route and doesn't stray away from the group. Though it is a very sad story," said government spokesperson Yulia Yershova.

The United Nations is behind the plan. UN Development Program chief Helen Clark has been working with Ukraine to develop the tour. "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 Clark.

It has cost more than $1.1 billion to make the area formerly occupied by Chernobyl safe to the public again.

(Via AP)