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Why Tourists Are Thronging Chernobyl, Site of World’s Worst Nuclear Disaster

The most popular tours are one-day group bookings, which cost visitors $99.

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Updated:June 13, 2019, 8:33 PM IST
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Why Tourists Are Thronging Chernobyl, Site of World’s Worst Nuclear Disaster
The most popular tours are one-day group bookings, which cost visitors $99.
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One would expect people to stay away as far as possible from the site of world's worst nuclear disaster but a new TV series is turning the Chernobyl nuclear power plant into a fast-emerging global tourism destination.

Although adventurous tourists have long been to drawn to the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, the SKY UK/ HBO series "Chernobyl" has piqued interest in the location that witnessed a catastrophic nuclear explosion in 1986.

Estimates of deaths as a result of radiation vary from 4,000, according to a United Nations study, and up to 200,000 as reported by a Greenpeace study.

The "Chernobyl” miniseries, starring Jared Harris, Stellan Skarsgård and Emily Watson, dramatizes the aftermath of the disaster.

Although "Chernobyl" was mainly filmed in Lithuania, its success has seen demand for tours of the area near the infamous Ukrainian site increase by around a third, according to a CNN report.

Located near the city of Pripyat, around 110 kilometers north of Kiev, Chernobyl is one of the most polluted places in the world and can only be visited with a licensed guide, the report says.

Tour companies are offering guided trips into the "exclusion zone," spread over an area of more than 4,000 square kilometers around the nuclear power plant.

"We have seen a 35% rise in bookings," Victor Korol, director of SoloEast, a tour company which has been offering trips to parts of Chernobyl for two decades, said.

"Most of the people say they decided to book after seeing this show. It's almost as though they watch it and then jump on a plane over."

The most popular tours are one-day group bookings, which cost visitors $99.

Much of the area has been open to tourists since 2011, but some sections, such as the "machine cemetery" of Rossokha village, remain off-limits.

“However, travelers can visit the abandoned city of Pripyat, as well an observation point around 300 meters away from the New Safe Confinement, a massive steel sarcophagus that covers the remains of the nuclear reactor,” the report says.

According to Korol, the reactor unit and a Ferris Wheel at Pripyat's deserted amusement park are the most popular with visitors.

SoloEast has been taking between 100 and 200 visitors to the area on weekend days since "Chernobyl" hit screens.

Some visitors are still apprehensive about radiation levels

"It's the most popular question visitors ask," Korol said. "But it's absolutely safe. The government would never allow tourists to come otherwise.

"The radiation they [visitors] are exposed to on a tour is less than on an intercontinental flight."

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