Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Chernobyl: A Novel Tourist Destination?

Does the 30-kilometer exclusion zone around the disused nuclear fission power plant that underwent a meltdown back in April 26, 1986 really offer something more than the typical mainstream tourist destination?

By: Ringo Bones

Believe it or not, there is already a regular tour into the 30-kilometer exclusion zone on the town of Pripyat that used to house the personnel working in the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. The tour cost around 600-eros which includes a bus ride into the exclusion zone plus the ever-important Geiger counter. This “basic” package sends a group of tourists onto a viewing platform that overlooks the sarcophagus that permanently seals the remains of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Sadly, the tour group only has a 1-hour window to tour the Chernobyl exclusion zone since the prevailing background ionizing radiation levels of the area hovers around 8-microSieverts an hour can increase one’s cancer risk on prolonged ionizing radiation exposure.

Established tour operators in Chernobyl had been clamoring the local government officials to erect a memorial using tourism revenue to honor the victims and the first responders of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster of April 26, 1986. Unfortunately, the local authorities still have the proverbial “cold feet” in acknowledging the full extent of the tragic nuclear meltdown.

Several Kiev-based travel agencies have been very busy recently in promoting their own Chernobyl tours that had been going on for years since the background ionizing radiation levels have subsided. Forbes magazine even listed Chernobyl as the most “exotic” tourist destination. But will the Chernobyl tourism boom benefit those who needed it most – i.e. the poor victims who can hardly even afford the necessary medication needed to relieve the symptoms of high-level ionizing radiation exposure?