Inadequate operation by untrained personnel coupled with a flawed nuclear reactor lead to the Chernobyl nuclear meltdown on April 26, 1986, notes the World Nuclear Association. Since the meltdown occurred, the area within a 19 mile radius of the nuclear plant, known as the exclusion zone, has been closed to the public with the exception of certified tours lead by certified guides. Illegal, and most likely unsafe, tours near the area have also been offered since the area has been restricted. Starting at some point in 2011, the exclusion area will be open to the public.
Planning Your Trip
If you choose to visit the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, it is best to do so during the summer months, as this is when guided tours are offered. The guided tours feature the safety net of constant radiation monitoring by the guide. Ask your guide if he is a certified guide. Certified guides have received special training about the Chernobyl area and they know what areas are safe to visit and what areas are best left alone.
You should plan to stay in Kiev as this is the city closest to the Chernobyl area. Many tours leave on buses from Kiev and return to Kiev. Most tours are all day events that last from about 9 a.m to around 6 p.m. The actual tours last approximately five to six hours and driving time is 2 hours each way.
While you are in the Kiev area, plan on visiting the Chernobyl Museum. Ideally, you should visit the museum before your tour of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant as the museum will help you to understand exactly what happened to cause the nuclear meltdown and what occurred after the meltdown.
Before you enter the Chernobyl area, you will have to go through a checkpoint to ensure that you aren’t violating any of the rules for entering the area. Weapons, alcohol, open toe shoes, shorts, certain types of trousers and skirts are prohibited in the Chernobyl area. You have to be over the age of 18 and have no medical conditions to enter. Additionally, you will be instructed not to eat or smoke in the area and that you are forbidden from touching anything or placing anything on the ground.
When you leave Chernobyl, you will have to go through a radiation checkpoint to ensure that you don’t have a high level of radiation. Because of the possibility, you should only wear clothes that you don’t mind disposing of when you visit Chernobyl.
Planning ahead is the key to a successful visit to Chernobyl. Make your reservations for your tour as early as possible to guarantee a spot on the tour. The day before your tour, call the tour company to find out if there are any special restrictions in place for your Chernobyl visit.