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Chernobyl’s Post-Nuclear Life

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Although Ukraine seems to be on the brink of civil war, Kiev’s official tourist agency is still daily organizing trips to Chernobyl’s disaster scene and Pripyat, Mid-European ghost city.

A recent visit to Chernobyl by a Top Gear crew made it so popular, that reservations have to be made 10 business days in advance. According to visitor’s comments around the web, it is an experience that just has to be lived.

Chernobyl disaster, which happened on April 26, 1986, led to a complete radioactive contamination of an 18-mile area around the plant. This area is usually referred to as Chernobyl’s Exclusion Zone, and it is still highly contaminated with radioactivity. However, the type of radioactive matter and slow-rate emission of radioactivity allows curios visitors to stay around the exploded reactor for short periods of time. The Chernobyl tour was legalized in 2011, after Ukrainian government prepared routes to be safe for visitors.

Various tour-operators from Kiev bring different tour options to the table, but all of them ensure that the visit to the main sightseeing point, Chernobyl’s nuclear reactor, will leave visitors radioactively untouched. A Geiger counter is a must-have gadget, and it beeps to extremes as visitors approach most-affected areas. Highest level of radiation, 1500 microroentgens per hour, was detected in the areas just next to the reactor.

Apart from tourism flourishing around Chernobyl, scientists are researching flora & fauna behavior in contaminated zones. One of them is Dr. Timothy Mousseau, who spends his days near Novoshepelychi, one of the abandoned villages in Chernobyl area. This biologist explores lasting effects of radiation on various species, such as: chiffchaffs, blackcaps, barn swallows and other birds; insects, including bumblebees, butterflies and cicadas; spiders and bats; and mice, voles and other small rodents. Latest discovery, by Mousseau and colleges, was recently published in a scientific journal, named Functional Ecology. Apparently, some birds managed to adapt to high-level radiation zones, avoiding damages by producing high levels of antioxidants. Responding to criticism Dr. Mousseau claims that he doesn’t think of Chernobyl as of post-nuclear Eden, but he sees some improvements in plants and animals behavior in the area.

By the end of 2017 a 32,000 tons arch will cover Chernobyl’s reactor, leaving no option for another disaster in a case existing shelter collapses, and put a stop to continuous leakage of radioactive matter. After arch being put on its position, the last phase of Chernobyl saga will begin, that is the cleaning of nuclear reactor debris. This whole project is conducted by Ukrainian companies, but co-financed with over 30 countries worldwide.

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