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article imageChernobyl disaster site becoming a tourist attraction

By Lynn Curwin     Dec 13, 2010 in Travel
The site of a major nuclear disaster may not be the first spot most people think of when planning a holiday, but those interested in such a visit will soon be able to take part in government-approved tours of the area around the Chernobyl power plant.
The Ukraine intends to allow visitors inside the 30-mile (48-kilometer) exclusion zone around the reactor, which exploded in 1986 and resulted in radioactive fallout covering the area. The highest amounts of radiation were found in Belarus, Ukraine and Russia.
The disaster resulted in deaths and many people being forced to move away from their homes. Some people still suffer health problems as a result of the catastrophe.
Although contamination is still found around the reactor, officials feel they can design tours which will be safe and informative.
"There are things to see there if one follows the official route and doesn't stray away from the group," Emergency Situations Ministry spokeswoman Yulia Yershova told The Associated Press. "Though it is a very sad story."
An exact date on when visitors would be allowed into the area was not given.
The plant continued to generate power until 2000, and 2,500 employees still work to maintain the site.
The Guardian reported that private tour firms, usually operating from Ukraine's capital, Kiev, take visitors to the area but the government says these are illegal and safety cannot be guaranteed.
One tour includes the nuclear plant - including the remains of number four reactor - measuring of radiation, and a lunch which is delivered from outside of the Chernobyl zone.
Prypyat, which was once a city of about 50,000 people and is now a ghost town can be seen. The Guardian reported that books still sit on school desks and May Day decorations flutter in the streets.
The ministry also announced that is hopes to complete a new shell for the exploded reactor by 2015. The existing iron-and-concrete structure is cracking and leaks radiation.
Greenpeace reported that an investigation published in April showed an increase in birth defects, which appear to be a result of long-term exposure to low level radiation.
"This is a problem that will not go away in few years. It will be there for centuries," Rianne Teule, of Greenpeace, stated.
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