Okay, for the sake of keeping things concise and not going into every single little detail of my trip so far, which would be pretty impossible, I’ve rinsed past our train trips through Moldova, and our time in Kiev, Ukraine…because I will lose my sanity if I have to spend too much more time sitting in this hostel writing about stuff that happened months ago now! (we had a wicked time by the way, I will aim to add these sections at a later date)


But if you have any sense in your head, you’d be interested in Chernobyl, where occurred the most catastrophic nuclear disaster the world has seen, in 1986 (the year before my birthday, actually). This pic to the right is taken at the town entrance to Chernobyl, the blue text is how you spell Chernobyl in the Cyrillic (Russian) alphabet.


Having the opportunity to explore Chernobyl and the nearby ghost town of Pripyat was like some kind of apocalyptic wet dream come true for me, having been brought up to be interested in nuclear war bunkers, etc. from a reasonably early age. Also, being at one of those places that “your mother says you shouldn’t really go” gives me a definite kind of satisfaction.


As it happens, Chernobyl is totally safe these days. You go through a radiation check and decontamination on the way in an out. The tour guides say “you experience more radiation on a transatlantic flight”. Okay, well I want to visit here so much that these facts must be true! ;)


I will say now that this was part of a guided tour…I’m really not much one for paid tours anywhere, I much prefer to explore places by myself, but in this particular case you run the risk of getting shot out in the middle of nowhere in north Ukraine if you attempt to do that in this particular place… so I was happy to restrain my rebellious urges and just take the goddamn tour.


As it happens, this was probably the best guided tour I’ve been on. (SoloEast Tours, Ukraine). They gave us the safety info without treating us like kids, and the Ukrainian tour guides were actually really quite entertaining and upbeat about what could otherwise be a seriously bleak and depressing place. They also let us into a couple of buildings which we were previously told would not be possible, and generally gave us much freedom as we wanted to look around each place


One of the first buildings we visited was a deserted kindergarten, although it had several rooms with rows of bunk  beds in it, leading us to believe that perhaps this was in reality an orphanage. It was really creepy and surreal to see all the abandoned childrens toys, teaching materials, dolls, pictures etc. scattered around the several rooms that made up this building and that we were allowed to explore for as long as we wanted.


We were however advised not to touch any organic plant matter, particularly moss, as its dense organic structure is ideal for the storage of radioactive particles. They also advised us not to attempt to eat any fruit or drink out of any rivers, duh!


The tour guides (and actually several other people on the tour) had radiation detector meters (Geiger counters). It was interesting because they showed us where there were various hotspots of radiation activity. So lets say “normal” radiation levels are 1. They would show us small spots of radiation that were 5,10,15 times the natural level, perhaps by the base of a tree or in a spot of moss. No big deal really…although they did show us one “hot-spot” that was 150 times the normal limit. She told us this could be the result of one micro-gram of plutonium or similar having floated its way out to this particular spot.


Another really cool thing we were shown was the robotic machinery that was used in the clean-up operation after the reactor melt-down. If you put a Geiger counter by these baby’s, these machines showed a radioactivity reading of around 30 times the natural limit. The sad fact is that these machines really only helped in a few specific situations, and the bulk of the leg work was done by humans wearing little protection working in 60 second shifts to move the radioactive waste and build the sarcophagus over the meltdown core.


On your right, please observe Reactor 4, the center point of this unprecedented, hugely destructive nuclear disaster. As an interesting point, the radiation signals of this catastrophic explosion were not made public to the Soviet Union itself, or the wider world, until a few days after it had happened, after radiation levels set off alarms at the Forsmark Nuclear Power Plant in Sweden, over 1000km from the Chernobyl Plant. It was only then, that the Soviet Union was prepared to admit that an accident had occurred.


I was lucky enough to visit Chernobyl at a time when the construction of an entirely new sarcophagus is underway. This large structure you see to the right is currently under construction. It will be rolled on train tracks over the existing sarcophagus and act as a reasonable form of protection for the medium term. In the next few years, Chernobyl 4 won’t be visible in its current form, it will be covered over by this new sarcophagus.


As it happens, the half-life of the radioactive core in Chernobyl is about 150,000 years. I.e. It will take 150,000 years before HALF of its radioactivity has naturally dispersed. As far as we are concerned the whole of this area might as well NEVER be inhabitable again.


Please take facts like this into account in any defence of continued development of nuclear technology. I’m actually (slightly) mildly in support of nuclear technology research, only because of its importance in potentially discovering a clean nuclear energy method i.e. nuclear fusion…but as a species, we are currently clearly completely INCAPABLE of responsibly dealing with radioactive waste.


And so we moved onto Pripyat, the legendary “Ghost City” commonly associated with Chernobyl. PLEASE CHECK OUT THE GALLERY PICTURES BELOW. Because of the limitations of how many pictures I have, how much bandwidth you have, and how many words I have to speak about the place, there’s a limit to how long I can keep banging on about the pictures here. But as you can see, this is really a unique place.


There is no doubt that the soviet regime in power at the time attempted to cover up the scale of the disaster, at the expense of innocent civilians living in the vicinity of the reactor.

It’s interesting and ironic to note that before the disaster, this city was actually seen like a kind of model of Soviet success. This was a city where scientifically educated, or otherwise successful echelons of the society at the time would be entitled to live at under the soviet regime (on the basis of their understanding of physics and nuclear science).The plant was home to 49,000 residents before the disaster, mostly the families of the plant workers. Kind of creepy to learn, there is apparently a single old woman living within the forests that surround the city completely by herself. She refused to leave the area after the disaster. Nobody ever returned to attempt to live in Pripyat itself.


Pripyat is kind of like a freeze-frame of 1980s Soviet life. Propaganda slogans still hang on walls, and children's toys and other items lurk about the place. Looters have taken away anything that might have been of value. The forest is reclaiming the surrounding land in a creepy kind of way.


Wandering about the place, you can see schools, a kindergarten, public buildings and an impressive cultural palace which contains a swimming pool, cinema and gymnasium etc. and overlooks the famous ferris wheel and a weird abandoned bumper car attraction. Hazards in this area include crumbling buildings, and ridiculously radioactive hotspots in certain areas…the guides know, and showed us where these are. For once, I was perfectly happy for a guide to tell me what is what.


The Chernobyl accident raised concerns about the safety of the Soviet nuclear power industry, as well as nuclear power in general, slowing its expansion for a number of years and forcing the Soviet government to become less secretive about its procedures. Interestingly, France refused to acknowledge that any radioactive material had entered their country. The French government was obviously in too strong support of the technology, and wasn’t prepared to admit this to the rest of the world and its own people. F@*king politicians eh?!


Another thing that got covered up was that this meltdown came dangerously close to a second explosion. If the burning core had fallen into the flooded chamber underneath the reactor (flooded through futile early attempts to put out the core with water...), this would likely have resulted in a second huge explosion that would have rendered a large portion of the whole of EUROPE totally uninhabitable, as Chernobyl now is.


Some sources say that the brazen government cover-up of the Chernobyl disaster, and the total destruction of one of the few towns that could be considered a ‘model’ of soviet success (yeah, right)…well, this could have been a "catalyst" for Glasnost, an approach of transparency and elimination of governmental corruption which paved the way for reforms leading to the eventual Soviet collapse…good riddance, IMO.


Just for fun, and nothing actually to do with Chernobyl whatsoever, I’ll add my own opinion on these apparently “communist” states that started to emerge around the 1920’s, in particular the Soviet Union and the Chinese Communist Party. None of these systems have much to do with the actual fundamental theory behind communism, which was to create the Marxist ideal of a classless, stateless, moneyless society. These are just large scale corruptions and societal failures to achieve what was actually a pretty good idea, if only human beings were prepared to act in such a way.


This certainly doesn’t mean that I am in favour of capitalism as some kind of antidote to what never actually managed to materialise in the first place... Capitalism is inherently exploitative and an expropriation of labor for profit with no particular consideration for the real human beings that end up on the receiving end of a totally unfair and really pretty inhumane way of looking at the world.


Regardless, for as long as  anyone alive can remember, the actual ruling powers are not either left or right. Power lies with a rich banking super elite that operates above any particular form of government, which has the ultimate control of our current, dilapidated money printing systems. These supreme actors hold the control to drive military power in the various countries that they control through puppet politicians, and towards the goals that are most profitable for their own ends.

Whether it claims to be communist, or capitalist, whether it’s China, or the US…both types of political systems have been corrupted with the specific aim of consolidating control of their respective money systems... and it is the real people, including us, that end up victims of this. Support decentralised currency and monetary reform. buy bitcoins! Is all I can say. And be careful with nuclear power and radioactive waste.