Chornobyl tours to be offered in new year
Site of 1986 disaster offers lessons on nuclear safety
Beginning next year, Ukraine plans to open up the sealed zone around the Chornobyl reactor to visitors who wish to learn more about the tragedy that occurred nearly a quarter of a century ago, the Emergency Situations Ministry said Monday.
The so-called exclusion zone, a highly contaminated area within a 50-kilometre radius of the exploded reactor, was evacuated and sealed off in the aftermath of the explosion. All visits were prohibited.
People returning to contaminated area
Today, about 2,500 employees maintain the remains of the now-closed nuclear plant, working in shifts to minimize their exposure to radiation. Several hundred evacuees have returned to their villages in the area despite a government ban. A few firms now offer tours to the restricted area, but the government says those tours are illegal and their safety is not guaranteed.
"There are things to see there if one follows the official route and doesn't stray away from the group," Yershova told The Associated Press. "Though it is a very sad story."
The United Nations Development Program chief Helen Clark toured the Chornobyl plant together with Baloha on Sunday and said she supported the plan because it could help raise money and tell an important lesson about nuclear safety.
"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, according to her office.
The new shell is 105 metres tall, 260 metres wide and 150 metres long. It weighs about 20,000 tonnes and will be slid over the old shelter using rail tracks. The new structure will be big enough to house the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris or the Statue of Liberty in New York.
The overall cost of the project, financed by international donors, has risen from $505 million to $1.15 billion US because of stricter safety requirements, according to Ukrainian officials.
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, which manages the project, said a final estimate of the project's cost will be released after the French-led consortium Novarka finalizes a construction plan in the next few months.