Day 9 began in Keiv, Ukraine. The only driving to be done today, was the 2 hours over to Chernobyl and the site of the nuclear disaster of April 1986. Not a place that perhaps many people have dreamed of visiting, but one steeped in history and not to be missed.
Whilst on the coach to the nuclear power plant, Naomi, Alex and Simon watched a documentary on the disaster. This shocking video gave them an idea of the scale of devastation they were about to encounter the remnants of.
For those who don’t know, or don’t remember…
On 26th April 1986 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, the fourth reactor which was only 2 years old, was undergoing routine maintenance checks. Unknown to all, there was a fault with the procedure and at around 1am there was a power surge which caused a huge explosion. The smoke from the resulting fire carried the radioactive fallout across a huge area, drifting across much of the Western Soviet Union and Europe.
One of the places hit hardest was the town of Pripyat with a population of 45,000 – a place Alex, Naomi and Simon visited on their tour – and a place where it will not be safe to live for another 20,000 years.
Beginning their tour, they were all given instructions, or rules to follow, along with official wristbands. Amongst the rules, they were told not to touch or consume anything, nor to walk off designated pathways.
They saw the robots which were used to push the radioactive material off the buildings and to the ground where it could be destroyed. Even these machines didn’t last long as the radiation destroyed their electrics.
Here, their guide takes a reading on the geiger counter.
Normal background radiation is 0.3. When they are near to the reactor it reads 4.46. But as their tour moves on to the town of Pripyat, and they visit an abandoned kindergarten school, it reaches 17.
They could see the building, with new trees that had now grown up around it, and empty rooms, abandoned in a hurry and still littered with toys and pictures.
They were shown a diary from the school, here you can see that the last entry was 28th April 1986, two days after the explosion. The authorities were afraid of panic and didn’t tell either the Kremlin or the local people what had happened straight away. Once they did, there was chaos and the queue for the evacuation buses reached 5km in length.
As they moved on, they were shown a fair which was set up as part of the country’s May Day celebrations, which were abandoned before they ever started.
And saw abandoned supermarkets, flats and offices – here are Alex and Simon enjoying a lighter moment, amongst radiative debris in a disused office.
All in all, it had been a mind-blowing experience for them all and one they are not likely to forget any time soon. And if you’ve got a meeting with any of them soon, don’t worry; they were checked for radioactive material before they came out (though Simon was a little too tall!)