The Shadow of Chernobyl

January 2004
Nearly twenty years after the Chernobyl disaster, the region is starting to get back to normal. It even has it's own burgeoning tourist industry.

The InterInform Hotel in Pripyat may not be five star, but it is booked solid for much of the year. "The Japanese joke it is the Chernobyl Hilton," laughs tour guide Rimma. Hundreds of curious holidaymakers are keen to visit the site of the world's worst nuclear disaster. The region also receives around 2,000 aid visits a year. It's boom time for those prepared to work here. Tour prices to Chernobyl have recently increased fourfold. "I came here to earn money," states the owner of a small guesthouse. "I told my doctor I wasn't afraid. I think a little radiation is good for you." With radiation levels in some places still dangerously high, tour guide Rimma always keeps a Geiger counter close by. Like many of the workers, she works two weeks in Chernobyl and then spends two weeks in the countryside to recover. Many consider the idea of exploiting such a massive disaster jarring, but there are plenty willing to capitalise on this new found success.