Just 24 short years after a Soviet nuclear plant melted down in Chernobyl, irradiating whole swathes of Europe in what became the worst nuclear accident in history, the now-Ukrainian town wants to make it up to the world. Chernobyl, the name of which has long been synonymous with environmental disaster and human folly, is seeking to rebrand itself as, what else, a hot tourist destination. The Moscow Times reports:
KIEV, Ukraine--Want a better understanding of the world's worst nuclear disaster? Come tour the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.
Beginning next year, Ukraine plans to open up the sealed zone around the Chernobyl reactor to visitors who want to learn more about the tragedy that occurred nearly a quarter of a century ago, the Emergency Situations Ministry said Monday.
You know you're in for a relaxing and fun time when the your vacation arranged by something called "the Emergency Situations Ministry." The Wall Street Journal elaborates:
Tour operators would have to meet strict criteria to be allowed to operate, said Yulia Yurshova, spokeswoman for the Emergency Situations Ministry, as straying from the route can expose visitors to unstable buildings or varying radiation levels. "The Chernobyl zone isn't as scary as the whole world thinks," said Ms. Yurshova. "We want to work with big tour operators and attract Western tourists."
The Ukraine has not exactly been a hotbed of international tourism. Before the Soviet era, it was known as the "breadbasket of Europe," but has since emphasized producing and exporting, as the CIA factbook puts it, "ferrous and nonferrous metals." Transparency International's global corruption ranking ties Ukraine with Zimbabwe, Sierra Leone, and Bangladesh. Could soliciting crowds of well-trod European tourists to roam Chernobyl's radiation-soaked fields finally turn around Ukraine's global image? To get a sense of how well their plan is working, here's Rachel's Maddow's segment on Chernobyl tourism: