We often hear that the zone is safe. When you visit with a guide who forbids you to enter any buildings, you don’t have to worry about, of course. The ban on entering the buildings, preceded by an earlier ban on going onto the roofs, is slowly becoming the norm for tourist groups. The regulation has been in effect for a long time, but it’s being implemented more often. This comes as no surprise, if you look at the increasingly decrepit buildings.
Demolished school in Pripayt.
In the basement of the school: cross country skis and many banners are found here.
The increseangly bad state of the buildings is not the biggest risk tourists may face in the zone. Radiation is much more serious. Despite the fact that the average radiation is many times higher than in the cities we live in, it’s still considered safe by experts. But what if some tourist, unaware of the danger, gets separated from the group and walks, unprotected, into one of the contaminated rooms? For example, the cellar of the Pripyat hospital, where he could unwittingly kick up, and then breathe in, radioactive dust which covers the firefighters’ uniforms that are lying around there. There are a lot of rooms like this in the zone. Some of you have surely heard about “Jupiter”, the factory which officially produced radios, and secretly made military equipment. Maybe you also heard about the local labs with hundreds of mysterious substances.
One of the boxes is open. The contents look like silver dust but it could also be grains of some metal. Intriguing, expecially because the dosimeter goes crazy when brought close to the material.
The radiation level of the mysterious silver dust reaches 1 232 uSv/h.
Frozen masks in the cellar of “Jupiter”.
Hardly not going to the cellar is enough to protect you from radiation. There are much more dangerous radioactive places in the zone. One is right by the power plant where thousands of toones of radioactive materials ended up as a result of the disaster. The explosion and fire caused the lighter materials to reach the atmosphere and the airstream, which spread it across a large part of Europe. The larger and heavier materials fell close to the power plant, contaminating tens of thousands of hectares of nearby forests. The forests were divided into four zones based on the level of contamination. The first, smallest but most highly contaminated zone, covers 400 ha of forests located directly next to the power plant. In this area all coniferous trees (trunks) died and their needles turned red. Hence the name Red Forest. Shortly after the disaster the decision was made to cut down and bury all of the dead trees. Leaving them there created a risk of re-distributing the radiation, for example, as a result of them bursting into flames.
the contamination of the terrain also created a problem for the nearby roads leading to the power plant. Cutting down and burying the trees also significantly decreased the level of radiation, which is currently around 20-30 uSv/h. Despite this, the trees buried under the ground (more precisely radionuclides), which are an exceptional form of biomass, reach new trees through the root system along with substance they feed on, and cause internal radiation and mutation in them. So is it just the radionuclides concentrated in the biomass which comes from the buried, old trees that is the source of such high radiation?
Temporary radioactive waste storage site.
Quite surprisingly it is rather easy to find a place where the radiation is much different (higher) from the previously mentioned background radiation in the Red Forest. Just some minutes of walk and we can find the tree where the radiation level reaches 5 000 uSv/h which is approximately 200 times higher than in the Red Forest! It could be the result of a high concentration of contaminated biomass / soil, and could also be a signal that there is a fragment of some inorganic material, e.g. piece of metal, under the layer of ground.
Have you ever seen something so radioactive i your life? 461mSv/h – the red arrow points to the fragment of fuel from reactor 4. Such a small inconspicuous grain can generate such huge radiation! it can cause so much damage and it can even kill! Yes, radiation is invisible, imperceptible, odourless, soundless – without a dosimeter we’re blind to it, and indeed none of our sense can detect it.