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Recently I read in my Lonely Planet and on some news site like for example this one, that the site of the Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe is open for tourists. There are also tour operators that offer visits to the destroyed city and the nuclear power plant. They state that the only visit "safe" places, i.e. places that are not really contaminated.

I personally have no plan to go there, because I think it is too dangerous and I also don't like disaster tourism. But nevertheless I will be in Kiev soon, and a friend accompanying me plans to go there. So I have some questions:

Is it really possible to differentiate places in the Chernobyl area that are less contaminated than others? Are these tours safe? Is it ethically correct to visit such places?

{ asked by RoflcoptrException }

ANSWER

How did I miss this question?? I've done this! Before it was even considered 'touristy' (we had to apply to the Ukrainian government for permission in 2008).

Now on the safety aspect, I was assured by my science teacher travel buddy and the scientists there that it's perfectly fine to go for a day. As for the radiation, apparently even spending a weekend in Devon is equivalent to 7 xrays, and this is less than that.

A lethal dose of radiation is in the range of 3-5 sieverts (300-500 roentgens) when administered within an hour. Levels on the tour range from 0.15 to several microsieverts per hour (15 to several hundred microroentgens an hour). A microsievert is one-millionth of a sievert. We didn't see it go higher than 14 microsieverts, from memory, and that was only in the amusement park area in Pripyat - surprisingly higher than when we were closer to the reactor.

If you'd like to read more about the trip which I did in 2008, I wrote an article about it for TNT Magazine in London.

{ answered by Mark Mayo }
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