Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, originally known as the V.I. Lenin Power Plant is located in northern Ukraine close to the border with Belarus. Four reactors had been built and were in use with the fifth and sixth reactors being built when the nuclear disaster destroyed reactor 4 in the early hours of 26th April 1986. The outcome is well known and the power station remains as a reminder of what can happen when nuclear power goes wrong.
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The firefighters and plant workers at the scene on the night of the accident suffered horrific radiation injuries and most did not survive the exposure. Liquidators were brought in to clear up the reactor including the remains of the core and many suffered the effects of the radiation. The biggest challenge was how to shield the core of the reactor as it was and still is emitting dangerous levels of radiation. In 2016 a massive dome was moved into place over the fourth reactor to contain the radiation. The power plant is currently being decommissioned but this will take many years. Most tours visit the canteen an experience not to be missed
Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant
From Pripyat the dome of the new safe confinement sarcophagus can be seen. It protects the workers and visitors as well as the environment from the radiation that is still dangerously high and continues to be emitted from the fourth reactor. However this danger feels a long way away, even as you approach the power plant.
Power cables run in military style across the landscape all ending up in one place, the inactive Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. The cranes used to construct the fifth and sixth reactors stand where they were on the day of the disaster, halfway through the construction phase of the new reactors. They will one day be removed as the whole site is decommissioned.
The road to the power plant follows the massive cooling lake that is a deep blue in the winter sunshine. Home to enormous catfish which can be seen from the bridge it is no longer used and the water levels are low.
Most of the people who live in Chernobyl Town work at the power plant, decommissioning the reactors. This is a slow process and the workers only spend short amounts of time within the exclusion zone before being bussed out and back to their normal lives.
You can now tour the nuclear power plant but just standing outside the scale of the disaster and the size of the reactor is obvious. There are two memorials, one to those who lost their lives in the initial explosion and fire next to an ornate statue of Prometheus and a second sits behind the new safe confinement sarcophagus in memory of those who gave their lives in the clear up operation.
A final experience at the Nuclear Power Plant is lunch in the workers canteen. After passing through the radiation monitoring checkpoint you enter a canteen. The staff are dressed in starched white uniforms with large hats. The food is hearty and very Ukrainian, but very much an acquired taste. The tour groups join the workers for lunch, a bustling environment that may give an idea to the atmosphere before the disaster changed the power plant forever.
As with anywhere in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, the power plant is a quick visit location. The tour guides are keen to help take photographs with the monuments. However, I felt that I didn’t want a picture of myself at these monuments and saying no was accepted.
There are quite strict regulations on taking photographs once you get to the nuclear power plant. You can take photographs of the memorials and the landscape but must not take any photographs of the reactor or the power plant.
Getting to Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant
The Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant is in the centre of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone and is about 2 hours by road from Kyiv.
Entry to the area is only possible as part of a guided tour of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. These tours can be booked in advance and all depart from Kyiv.
If you want to visit the Nuclear Power Plant then ensure you select tour that details a tour of the Power Plant and not just a visit to the outside areas. These are usually a little more expensive but worth the cost.