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Radiation Tourism: On the up?

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Chernobyl, site of the nuclear disaster on 26th April 1986, wouldn't exactly be the typical idea that comes to mind when considering your next holiday destination.

At least, not until now. At the same time that X-Ray protection manufacturer Rothband have announced that 30% of people would consider taking a holiday to a site affected by radiation, specialised companies have already begun tapping into this potential tourism goldmine.

Lupine Travel, a UK-based tour and package company, specialises in unique travel destinations and sends 300 people a year to explore Pripyat and the surrounding Exclusion Zone - which is estimated to be uninhabitable on a full time basis for another 200,000 years.

So why has Chernobyl suddenly become such a key destination for bucket lists, thrill-seekers and historians alike?

Managing Director for Lupine, Dylan Harris, believes it is on the up for good. 

"We get a wide range of ages visiting Chernobyl, but around 50% of the clients are aged from 20-35," he says.

He adds: "The numbers used to be higher but they were really affected by the outbreak of the civil war in Ukraine in 2014. They have recently started to recover though." 

It is probably such a prized destination because of the secrecy and lore around the surrounding area. It's almost uninhabited, save a staunch band of locals who refuse to give into the threat and fear of radiation.

To be fair though, radioactivity levels at Chenobyl are higher than in everyday background radiation, but still pale in comparison to radioactivity levels when flying around the world, or lazing on Brazillian beaches.

Official tour companies generally have a very high rating when it comes to quality and knowledge, with tours available for a variety of lengths of time and also in a number of different languages. They are also relatively easy on the wallet - a basic tour costs around £17.00 for a group day-trip, although prices are adjusted on sliding scale depending on the length and number of visitors on the tour.

As well as Pripyat, tour-goers can visit the Duga 'Russian Woodpecker' surveillance facilities, abandoned since the 1990s, that was key during the Cold War for detecting American activity.

They can also visit infamous sites such as the enclosed No. 4 nuclear reactor, where the disaster took place, and also The Azure Swimming Pool which has famously featured in a number of pieces of media and pop culture, including Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and in the music video for 'Marooned' by Pink Floyd.

It would no doubt be fascinating to explore the general area around Chernobyl's nuclear reactors and see the effects that nature has had on the area; many abandoned buildings have become dilapidated, run down and overgrown by woodland.

Despite various urban myths around radioactive mutated animals inhabiting the area - most of which sound like bad rehashes of 2012's awful horror film Chernobyl Diaries - no evidence has been found suggesting any wildlife has suffered from mutation. 

Even the most sceptical shouldn't be worried about radiation levels. University of Lund in Sweden has announced mobile phones could potentially be used to track and detect radiation levels six years on from an exposure date, using aluminium oxide resistors inside the technology.

This comes as welcome news for Paul Dixon of Rothband, who praises the development, saying: "Technology has always moved quickly with regards to anti-radiation equipment, and this discovery is no exception. Places such as Chernobyl have used similar systems before, but this is much more sophisticated and backed by research."

He himself is equally positive about radiation tourism's potential, adding: "I'm sure that with more resources and protective methods the numbers should tip in favour of visiting - there are some great historic locations, and if you are interested in them you shouldn't be put off."

Touring Chernobyl would certainly be a unique holiday experience. Even to this day, it is still strictly marshalled by government officials, with enforced passport and documentation checks around the area. It genuinely is a modern Pompeii, a town frozen in time following a tragedy and now only fit to be observed through the sombre solemn magnifying glass of history and education.

It is only through seeing the effects of this horrific accident that we can ensure it never happens again. And at the same time, people can receive a once-in-a-lifetime chance to explore one of history's most fascinating tragedies. 




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