Here's What It Is Really Like Inside The Chernobyl Exclusion Zone

On April 25th 1986, the fourth reactor at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant suffered a catastrophic reaction. From that moment on, time has stood still in that small part of what is now Ukraine.

Ever since then, there has been a fascination with the area and what has happened to it.

So much so that companies now offer tours of the area that are filled up by intrepid explorers looking to capture a glimpse into the Soviet era, as well as to see the aftermath of a tragedy that left a 2,600km area uninhabitable and claimed many lives.

Credit: CHERNOBYLwel.come
Credit: CHERNOBYLwel.come

The fascination continues to this day. Sky Atlantic has just released a three part drama series documenting the disaster that has received hugely positive reviews.

Following on the heels of that, we decided to chat to Martin Duben, one of the people behind CHERNOBYLwel.come, one of the tour operators taking anyone willing into the exclusion zone.

The first thing that anyone entering the ghost town of Pripyat might learn is that it is far from a ghost town nowadays.

Credit: CHERNOBYLwel.come
Credit: CHERNOBYLwel.come

Whilst exact figures are not available, Martin told LADbible that around 75,000 people went to the area last year, with around 100,000 expected in 2019.

He said: "It depends what time of the year you go, the spring and autumn are crowded - months April, May, September and October there are thousands of visitors per weekend.

"The ghost town of Pripyat is not a ghost town at all, you have a hard time trying to take a picture where there is no-one there. There's too many tourists."

Credit: CHERNOBYLwel.come
Credit: CHERNOBYLwel.come

"November is the best time, it's not that cold but there is some snow and it is kind of depressing."

"Everyone is saying 'why do you want to go to Chernobyl' but then they get there and there are hundreds if not thousands of people there"

Credit: CHERNOBYLwel.come
Credit: CHERNOBYLwel.come

Standing above the town is the huge Duga Radar, a Soviet missile defence system that stands at 750m long and 150m tall.

Whilst it's one of the most impressive features of the immediate area around the power plant, it's also why it is there. The power plant was built to facilitate the massive amount of power needed for the radar and the thousands of people who lived there to man it.

Credit: CHERNOBYLwel.come
Credit: CHERNOBYLwel.come

That's not a great thing if something goes wrong.

So, what is the fascination with Chernobyl? Why do so many people travel there?

Duben continued: "It is so popular because it is falling apart. It's not like Disneyland which will be there in 20 years. You have to go now, because in five or 10 years it might not be there."

He's right there, too. Disneyland, it ain't.

Credit: CHERNOBYLwel.come
Credit: CHERNOBYLwel.come

According to Duben, who has entered 'The Zone' 13 times, the winter completely changes the dynamic of the place.

"In the winter it is just you and your group, that is when you get the feeling that is out of this world. There is no phone signal, you can't make or receive calls, there is no internet.

"You're just standing outside, your phone is useless there is no people, you feel like the world is out there but you're not part of it.

"Everything there feels different. It's like imagining a future without people or after world war three. This is a place where you can actually see what would happen to civilisation if we just weren't there and if we just disappeared completely.

"Combined with that out of this world feeling, it's just amazing."

Credit: CHERNOBYLwel.come
Credit: CHERNOBYLwel.come

"You travel back to the cold war era and you can see exactly what it looked like. We found newspapers in post boxes and menus from restaurants from the very day of the catastrophe.

"You can find a lot of things like toothbrushes and things like that from people's flats.

"On one side it is super cool but on the other it is really scary.

"It's like 'what would happen if we were not here' and you're just exploring it."

Credit: CHERNOBYLwel.come
Credit: CHERNOBYLwel.come

Now, you might think that the area is still dangerous and - to a certain extent - you'd be right. However, since the explosion an international conglomerate has created a new 'sarcophagus' around the exploded reactor.

Duben told us: "Radiation is actually not higher than in Kiev or any other capital in Europe. After the explosion it was bad, and during the liquidation. However, after the new sarcophagus was built, there's not that much radiation

"The safest place is about 150 - 200 metres from the exploded reactor because that's where the workers are. If they feel safe, I feel safe there."

Credit: CHERNOBYLwel.come
Credit: CHERNOBYLwel.come

There are still rules. No eating or drinking outside, regular radiation checks as you pass exclusion zone checkpoints, and mandatory long-sleeved shirts and long trousers.

Other than that, we're assured that it's perfectly fine for a visit. Just look at the pictures and try to pretend you wouldn't like to go there.

Featured Image Credit: CHERNOBYLwel.come

Tom Wood

Tom Wood is a freelance journalist and LADbible contributor. He graduated from University of London with a BA in Philosophy before studying for a Masters in Journalism at the University of Salford. He has previously written for the M.E.N Group as well as working for several top professional sports clubs. Contact him on [email protected]

Next Up

arrow-down arrow-left arrow-right arrow-up camera clock close comment cursor email facebook-messenger facebook Instagram link new-window phone play share snapchat submit twitter vine whatsapp logoInline safari-pinned-tab Created by potrace 1.11, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2013