Beginning next year, Ukraine plans to open up the sealed zone around the Chernobyl reactor to visitors who wish to learn more about the tragedy that occurred nearly a quarter of a century ago.
Chernobyl’s reactor No. 4 exploded on April 26, 1986, spewing radiation over a large swath of northern Europe. Hundreds of thousands of people were resettled from areas contaminated with radiation fallout in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia. Related health problems still persist.
The so-called exclusion zone, a highly contaminated area within a 30-mile radius of the exploded reactor, was evacuated and sealed off in the aftermath of the explosion. All visits were prohibited.
Today, about 2,500 employees maintain the remains of the now-closed nuclear plant, working in shifts to minimize their exposure to radiation. Several hundred evacuees have returned to their villages in the area despite a government ban. A few firms now offer tours to the restricted area, but the government says those tours are illegal and their safety is not guaranteed.
Emergency Situations Ministry spokeswoman Yulia Yershova said experts are developing travel routes that will be both medically safe and informative for Ukrainians as well as foreign visitors. She did not give an exact date when the tours were expected to begin.
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