Tim Knifton

An eye opening experience

This is my first full day back in the country following a trip to the Ukraine city of Kiev, primarily to visit the exclusion zone of Chernobyl and Pripyat. Being fans of Urban Decay and dereliction photography, myself and a friend decided to travel in October and join a group tour for two days. This was primarily due to lack of others able to make up the numbers this time. A private, customised tour could be made more affordable if there were more of us. Next time will be different.

For those not familiar with the Chernobyl disaster, much of this can be found online but a small(ish) extract can be found below.

The Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant or Chornobyl Nuclear Power Station (Ukrainian: Чорнобильська атомна електростанція , Russian: Чернобыльская АЭС) is a decommissioned nuclear power station near the city of Pripyat, Ukraine, 18 km (11 mi) northwest of the city of Chernobyl, 16 km (9.9 mi) from the Ukraine–Belarus border, and about 110 km (68 mi) north of Kiev. Reactor 4 was the site of the Chernobyl disaster in 1986 and the power plant is now within a large restricted area known as the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone.

On Saturday, April 26, 1986, a disaster occurred at reactor No. 4, which has been widely regarded as the worst accident in the history of nuclear power. As a result, reactor No. 4 was completely destroyed and has since been enclosed in a concrete and lead sarcophagus to prevent further escape of radiation. Large areas of Europe were affected by the accident. The radiation cloud spread as far away as Norway, in Scandinavia.

The disaster began during a systems test on Saturday, 26 April 1986 at reactor number four of the Chernobyl plant, which is near the city of Prypiat and in proximity to the administrative border with Belarus and Dnieper river. There was a sudden power output surge, and when an emergency shutdown was attempted, a more extreme spike in power output occurred, which led to a reactor vessel rupture and a series of explosions. These events exposed the graphite moderator of the reactor to air, causing it to ignite. The resulting fire sent a plume of highly radioactive smoke fallout into the atmosphere and over an extensive geographical area, including Pripyat. The plume drifted over large parts of the western Soviet Union and Europe. From 1986 to 2000, 350,400 people were evacuated and resettled from the most severely contaminated areas of Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine. According to official post-Soviet data about 60% of the fallout landed in Belarus.

Pripyat is a ghost town near the border with Belarus. Pripyat was founded in 1970 to house workers for the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. It was officially proclaimed a city in 1979 but was abandoned in 1986 following the Chernobyl disaster. It was the ninth nuclear city in the Soviet Union at the time and its population was around 50,000 before the accident. After the disaster the city of Pripyat was evacuated in two days.Along with its prime goal as being home to nuclear power plant’s employees, Pripyat had been viewed as a major railroad and river cargo port in northern Ukraine. The urban nomenclature was quite typical for the time. There were traditional ideological names on the city map such as Lenin Avenue, International Friendship Street, Heroes of Stalingrad Street, etc.

There also were some street names that had local bearings, e.g. Embankment Street, Builders Avenue, and Enthusiasts Avenue. Lesya Ukrainka Street has cultural implications: it bears the name of one of the greatest poets of Ukraine. The standard Soviet theme was also included in the naming scheme: Igor Kurchatov Street was named after the “Father of the Soviet Atomic Bomb”.

Pripyat had a defined city centre where the city hall (or city council), the largest shopping centres, major recreational and public catering facilities and the Polissya hotel were located.

The official evacuation note:

“For the attention of the residents of Pripyat! The City Council informs you that due to the accident at Chernobyl Power Station in the city of Pripyat the radioactive conditions in the vicinity are deteriorating. The Communist Party, its officials and the armed forces are taking necessary steps to combat this. Nevertheless, with the view to keep people as safe and healthy as possible, the children being top priority, we need to temporarily evacuate the citizens in the nearest towns of Kiev Oblast. For these reasons, starting from April 27, 1986 2 p.m. each apartment block will be able to have a bus at its disposal, supervised by the police and the city officials. It is highly advisable to take your documents, some vital personal belongings and a certain amount of food, just in case, with you. The senior executives of public and industrial facilities of the city has decided on the list of employees needed to stay in Pripyat to maintain these facilities in a good working order. All the houses will be guarded by the police during the evacuation period. Comrades, leaving your residences temporarily please make sure you have turned off the lights, electrical equipment and water off and shut the windows. Please keep calm and orderly in the process of this short-term evacuation.”

More from this trip will be added when I have time to write. Many of the photos will appear on my Flickr profile as they are processed.

This entry was published on October 9, 2012 at 8:31 pm and is filed under Photography, Urbex photography. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

2 thoughts on “An eye opening experience

  1. Good luck with the blogging! Seems like you’re off to a great start!

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