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Pripyat. Ghost town thanks to one mistake

The whole world has heard of Ukraine in April, 1986, when a nuclear reactor has exploded and caused a real catastrophe not only for this country, but for the whole world. Today, the city of Pripyat is officially abandoned, and is not inhabited.

Though, some people have made a decision to stay here despite of excessive radiation rates, and keep living here. This is just brief information everyone knows, but what is Pripyat like today? What was the city like before the catastrophe? And what really happened to Pripyat years ago? These are some of the questions we’ll look into.pripyat_2

Is Pripyat still abandoned?

The short answer is yes. It was extremely dangerous for living, especially right after the accident in 1986. So, the city of Pripyat was cut off from the telecommunications and does not have water, electricity and certain other important facilities to live in.

And even though the radiation level has significantly decreased with the death of those short-lived isotopes, it is still significantly above those ‘safe’ rates. That is why, when you go to Pripyat, you will notice numerous warning signs on the sideways, the yellow triangular boards with the red radiation sign.

All the buildings, road pavement and even trees have obtained serious radiation dosage back in 1986. All this has to be completely rebuilt to become safe for living, and in order to eliminate that serious radiation background. However, some experts say, that in around 30 years, Pripyat will be available for living again.

And, if needed from the economical and demographic point of view, may be rebuilt again. Though, this all is still a big question, and depends on many serious factors, related not only with the radiation level in the area.pripyat_24

Brief facts about Pripyat, Ukraina

Pripyat is an abandoned city in Ukraine. Its name was derived from the name of the river it was built on. The city was founded back in 1970, and is a part of Kyiv region. Pripyat city lies right near the border with Belarus, and was established specifically as a nuclear city, which was already number nine in the former USSR.

The main purpose of the city was serving a huge nuclear plant, Chornobyl, which was located nearby. City of Pripyat officially gained the status of a city only nine years after it was established, and the population count here by the day of evacuation was 49.360.pripyat_23

Before the disaster, Pripyat city was a part of administrative district of Ivankiv, and today has got a status of an abandoned city in Ukraine. Today, it is not inhabited, so is no longer governed as a normal city, and is under supervision of the Ukrainian Ministry of Emergencies.

Regardless of the fact, that the abandoned city of Pripyat, Ukraine is deemed inappropriate for living due to excessive radiation level in the area, there are still some people, who live here. They have once refused to evacuate after the tragedy in 1986, and live in Pripyat for their entire lives. Even though the place doesn’t have electricity and other facilities. So, to sum up, Pripyat, Ukraine:pripyat_25

  • 49.360 citizens before the catastrophe;
  • Located close to the border with Belarus;
  • Got the official status of city in 1979;
  • Now is Ukraine abandoned city;
  • Officially is not inhabited;
  • Level of radiation is around 760 microroentgens per hour;
  • Now is under the supervision of Ministry of Emergencies.

Ukraine radioactive city background

Originally, the access to such cities, as Pripyat was before the nuclear disaster, was not restricted, unlike certain other cities of military importance in the former Soviet Union. This all was due to the fact, that nuclear power was considered as environmentally safe in the country. In the early 1970s, there was a popular slogan, “Peaceful Atom”, which stressed this belief.

pripyat_26So, the nuclear power stations were considered a real progress in the power supply industry. Furthermore, such plants were used only for peaceful purposes and had nothing to do with the military activities. So, soviet engineers felt, that nuclear plants were a real achievement for them.

Originally there was a plan to establish a nuclear plant only 25 kilometers (around 16 miles) away from the Ukrainian capital, Kiev. Though the board of the Academy of Scientists expressed a doubt, that such idea is reasonable in terms of safety, so the plant was built quite further.

pripyat_27Chernobyl plant, as well as Pripyat, the city which served the plant, was set 100 kilometers (or 62 miles) away from Kiev. And this idea turned out to be reasonable, so the radiation blast did not damage the official capital of the city.

Instead, all citizens of Pripyat were evacuated almost immediately (within two days after the disaster). The name of Chernobyl and Pripyat in Ukraine are nowadays not connected with the former slogan of the peaceful atom. But are synonyms of serious environmental tragedy for the country, which took many lives and undermined health of many people.pripyat_28

Is Pripyat in Ukraine, or it is considered Pripyat, Russia?

This question is asked by many people, who think of attending this abandoned city. Short answer: it is Ukraine nuclear city. To understand the reason, why some people still consider Pripyat Russia, we have to refer to the history. When the city of Pripyat was established, there was one big country, Soviet Union, or USSR.

At that time, there were two separate republics, Ukraine and Russia, which were parts of this big country. Moscow was the capital of USSR, and today is a capital of Russian Federation. So before the destruction of the Soviet Union, name of Pripyat Russia was still reasonable.

pripyat_29In 1990, USSR stopped existing and Ukraine became a sovereign state, with the capital in Kiev. And abandoned Pripyat became a part of the purely Ukrainian territory. So, you do not have to struggle for that Russian visa to travel to Pripyat if you wish to. Instead, you need to set up arrangements and get a visa to Ukraine, which is way easier to obtain.

What happened in Pripyat, Ukraine?

This is a story about a human error, which led not only to complete destruction of a huge nuclear facility, but has also taken many lives of local people and disaster liquidators. Here is how it started. On 26th of April, 1986, on one of the reactors there took place a stress test on the reactor number 4.pripyat_210The safety systems were forcefully turned off, and the experiment in a light water reactor started. The core was arranged in the way, which did not meet the checklist for such tests. And, as a result, the reaction flew into an uncontrolled condition. So, due to extremely high temperature, water in the cooling system was turned into steam, which had further generated that steam explosion.

When the reactor was damaged, the graphite was left on the open air, and there occurred ‘fire’, which couldn’t go down for over 9 days. This fire has released a lot of harmful nuclear elements and isotopes, which evaporated.

pripyat_211They got into the atmosphere, spread in the ground and, with the air masses, got spread above many European countries. Pripyat was the closest city to the Chernobyl station, so, to avoid even more serious consequences of the accident, citizens were evacuated from there.

The catastrophe itself got the level 7 according to the international nuclear disaster scale, which is the highest rating. In terms of causalities and cost, this accident became the worst and the most dangerous nuclear catastrophe in the history ever. As of deaths, two people died immediately. And the number of deaths increased to 31, as some people got lethal doses of radioactive isotopes.pripyat_212Many people suffer that nuclear disease, which further leads to mutations and cancer. The results and impact of the catastrophe are still being investigated.

  • Pripyat was evacuated just within two days after the nuclear explosion in Chernobyl;
  • 31 people died of radiation (2 of them died immediately);
  • It took 9 days to choke a fire of radioactive graphite;
  • The Chernobyl catastrophe happened due to human error during a series of stress tests;
  • This nuclear accident has got the highest rating in the nuclear event scale, being 7;
  • The most common reason for deaths is acute radiation syndrome;
  • This is the worst nuclear accident in terms of cost and related casualties.

Is it safe to go to Pripyat, Ukraine for a sightseeing tour?

In Ukraine there are several agencies, which offer guided tours to Pripyat. And such excursions turn out to be quite popular, especially among the tourists who come here from overseas.

pripyat_213People come here to find out more about the huge nuclear catastrophe, which took place over 20 years ago. And, of course, they want to take a look at the real abandoned city, or city-ghost. Of course, numerous buildings here still have the signs of fast evacuation, as many things were just left.

In terms of safety for the visitors, Pripyat (Ukraine) became safer, as the short-lived nuclear isotopes have vanished. And, as a result, the overall radiation level in this place has seriously decreased. Being specific, the radiation level in Pripyat city today does not exceed the point of 1 microsevert an hour.

pripyat_214And, this point even may not be compared with the lethal and critical indicators, which were shown right after the accident. So, taking a short-term tour is not likely to be harmful for your health.

What is now in Pripyat, Ukraine?

Today, the town of Pripyat is known as a radioactive city in Ukraine, which was abandoned.

And the buildings and things of the citizens were left as they were right after the nuclear catastrophe. The buildings, things, constructions and certain other belongings of Pripyat citizens also were influenced with isotopes of the burning graphite in the reactor. So, it was decided to leave everything as it is.

pripyat_215That is why, Pripyat city became another ghost city on the world map.

After the evacuation, Pripyat city was abandoned, and its inhabitants were moved to Slavutych. It is a brand-new city, which was built up as a replacement for Pripyat. In its turn, Pripyat, abandoned by the citizens, was left as it is, and all the things, which also have got that radiation dose, were left as well.

In this Ukraine abandoned city, the buildings, such as houses, schools, hotels, shops and certain others, still stand as they were left. In the schools there are still some chalk inscriptions on the blackboards, and some books are still on the desks. Of course, paint already peels from the walls and metal constructions, and floorings are rotten.

pripyat_216Trees have already grown through the roofs and walls of the buildings. And it feels like nature is curing the abandoned city Pripyat from that serious nuclear disease. Of course, on the streets you will hardly meet someone.

Still, some people keep living in this place. In the majority of cases, they are aged people, who refused to evacuate from their homes regardless of serious danger to their health. The Ferris wheel, as well as windows without glass makes Pripyat a good place for shooting of a horror film.pripyat_217

Infrastructure of Pripyat, Ukraine, before the disaster

Originally, Pripyat, Ukrain was established as a city to live for families of people, who served the Chernobyl power plant. It was located on the banks of the river of Pripyat, hence the name. With slightly under 50.000 of citizens, the city was considerably new. It started being inhabited in 1970, and gained the official status of the city by 1979. Here were many schools, houses and other buildings of social meaning:

  • 15 primary schools, 1 professional college and 5 secondary schools;
  • Total living space in the city equaled to 658.700 square meters (or 7.090.000 square feet);
  • 160 appartment blocks with the total of 13.414 flats;
  • Residents for single workers in 18 halls of residence;
  • 3 clinics and 1 hospital;
  • 10 warehouses, 25 stores; 27 cafes and restaurants;
  • Average age of Pripyat citizens – 26 years (by the beginning of 1986);
  • Cinema, art school and exhibition palace;
  • 4 industrial facilities, producing goods;
  • A football stadium, where the team of Pripyat, Stroitel, used to play;
  • Gyms, swimming pools and shooting galleries.

pripyat_220This all today is still located in Pripyat abandoned city, and is already getting destroyed, rotten and corroded. The Ferris wheel in the local amusement park still remains on its place, and recollects those days of “Peaceful atom”.

One day it stopped being peaceful and destroyed a nuclear plant and made around 50 thousands of people leave in terms of evacuation. In summer, the city is green and from the height looks as a normal city. But when you look closer, you will notice, that the trees have already managed to grow inside of the buildings, the roofs are rotten, and the windows no longer have glass.pripyat_221

Radiation levels in Pripyat

In Ukraine, Pripyat, the radiation levels tend to change with time, in accordance with the destruction of certain isotopes, which were released as a result of Chernobyl tragedy. Technically, there are several ways to measure radiation level in a certain area.

When talking about the impact of radiation towards the human body and tissues, radiation dosages are measured in sieverts (shortly, Sv). Generally, one Sv is a very large dose, so quite often we are talking about smaller units, microsieverts (uSv) and milisieverts (mSv). Normally, the dosimeters show their measurements in microsieverts.

pripyat_222Before, there was used another measurement of radiation, REM (which stands for Roentgen Equivalent in Man). 1 sievert is 100 REM.

Today, the radiation level in the abandoned city of Pripyat equals to 22 uSv. The measurement of the radiation becomes possible due to the electric reaction in the measuring device. Being specific, there is a tube with special gas inside. And when the gas is stuck by radiation waves, it creates electricity, which allows measuring the dosages. When this all happens, there appears a sound a person may hear. Modern devices allow to choose the units to measure the radiation level in.pripyat_224

  • Right after the reactor explosion the level equaled to 300 Sv/hr, and provided lethal dosages in minutes;
  • In the city of Prypyat, dosimeters failed to show anything after the explosion, since the rates were too high for the devices;
  • The staff, who were in the building, were unable to accurately measure the radiation dosages due to ‘off-scale’ indication, so got lethal dosages, as were not worn properly;
  • 22 years after the disaster, the radiation level at the place of disaster was 22 sv/hr, and the lethal radiation dosages could be obtained within 15 minutes;
  • Today, the radiation levels in the city of Pripyat are above the norm, but are just ok for a short stay.

Radiation levels in the area tend to change on daily basis.pripyat_223

Influence of radiation to the human body

In Pripyat, Ukraine abandoned city, today the radiation dosages make it safe for people to stay here for some time. But such dosages are still considered high for a place to live in. Modern science does not allow to precisely predict the impact of radiation to the living organisms, so we have got only average data.

Generally, the radiation dosages, which exceed the rate of 5 sieverts are considered lethal. 10 sieverts is the dosage, which was obtained by the liquidators of the Chernobyl disaster. So such people died within weeks after they got the radiation dosages.

pripyat_225Besides, many doctors, who operated on the victims of Chernobyl disaster and cured them, also got excessive radiation doses, and were seriously influenced. These people also died shortly after the disaster. Bodies of the fire liquidators and certain other victims were buried in the concrete and metal caskets.

This was done to prevent from the radiation, which is in their bodies, from spreading to the ground and further to the environment. The former citizens of Ukraine, Pripyat, who were evacuated from the dangerous zone after the accident, also suffered from nuclear diseases and certain mutations.

pripyat_226The statistical data shows, that women, who were pregnant at the time of disaster in Ukraine, Prypyat, also got serious health problems. Some infants died shortly after they were born, and some had certain physical and mental deviations.

Furthermore, many cancer studies show increased level of leukemia, or so-called blood cancer among the Ukrainians and Belarusians shortly after the nuclear accident. It occurred due to nuclear rays and isotopes, which caused excessive growth of white bodies in blood.

References in culture, movies and games

Pripyat, as a ghost-town, became a background for many music videos, movies and games. It attracted the creators due to many reasons. Some producers used that horror background, which perfectly mated the ideas of horror films.

pripyat_227For video games, Pripyat as an abandoned city became a stage for actions, and was altered by the imagination of creators. Besides, there are multiple documentaries, which used the idea of Pripyat. It was left as it was, and became completely uninhabited as a result of improper usage of nuclear elements. Such videos show, what may happen to any town or city, if the basic rules are not followed. And, reminds that the atom is not always peaceful, and may cause a lot of destruction, grief and serious consequences for the environment.

Here are some names of references, which used the idea and background of Pripyat:

  • ‘A Stroll to the Zone’, a novel by Makiyan Kaysh (2015);
  • 2 tracks, called ‘Pripyat’ by an Australian hip-hop singer Seth Sentry;

pripyat_228The famous computer game Counter Strike (2012):

  • Global Offensive is located at Pripyat and Chernobly, according to its digital map;
  • There is a video game called STALKER: Call of Pripyat;
  • Another game, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare also offers Pripyat as a stage for the game;
  • ‘What We Made’ documentary is about what is Pripyat now like;
  • The Last Oracle (2008) is a novel by James Rollins, and the majority of action takes place in Pripyat;
  • ‘The White Horse’ (2008) documentary also takes place in Pripyat;
  • There is a mod for the game, called Arma 3, which takes place at the ghost town of Pripyat.pripyat_229

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