Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 19 September 2019

Chernobyl to be turned into an official tourist site

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky has revealed plans to make Chernobyl a 'growth point' for the country

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky has signed a decree setting out plans to turn Chernobyl, where a nuclear reactor exploded in 1986, into a tourist site.

The plans include new walking trails, checkpoints and improved mobile phone reception. Restrictions on filming in the area will also be lifted.

“Chernobyl has been a negative part of Ukraine’s brand,” said Zelensky at the inauguration of a giant €1.7 billion (Dh7bn) dome, which encases the destroyed nuclear reactor. “The time has come to change this.

“Chernobyl is a unique place on the planet, where nature revives after a world-wide man-made disaster, where there is a real ‘ghost town’. We should show Chernobyl to the world: scientists, environmental specialists, historians and tourists.”

Zelensky added that the exclusion zone surrounding the site would become “one of new Ukraine’s growth points”.

The president also hopes that this decree will help to reduce corruption in Chernobyl, which has become an unlikely tourist destination, a trend exacerbated by the success of popular HBO series, Chernobyl.

“Unfortunately, the exclusion zone has so far remained a symbol of corruption,” said Zelensky. “Security forces collect bribes from tourists, illegally ship metal and take advantage of natural resources. We will soon put an end to this.”

It remains unclear how many people have died as a result of the nuclear disaster. Thirty workers at Chernobyl were killed at the moment of the explosion or soon after from acute exposure to radiation.

Millions of people in the surrounding area were also exposed to elevated levels of radiation. Contamination from the explosion spread across 200,000 square kilometres of land, mostly in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia.

Five thousand cases of thyroid cancer, directly linked to nuclear contamination from Chernobyl, have so far been recorded.

Updated: July 11, 2019 12:31 PM

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