We used all these unplanned breaks to take our first radiation dose measurements, samples and spectra. (Photo 3). After a delay of two and a half hours we finally arrived at the Chernobyl zone. We had to cancel the visit to the spent fuel facility and the control room of unit number 3, but lunch was saved.
On the way to Unit 4 of the Chernobyl NPP we measured a dose rate increase as we progressed along the road, which we couldn’t explain initially. After more detailed discussions we figured out that because of the construction works for the shelter project that were taking place trucks were moving out of the construction area without any prior decontamination. It would, therefore, have been useful to dust protect the roads, cover the road with bitumen or spray the trucks before leaving the zone.
The measurements were taken using an ATOMTEX Backpack system, and analysed with Google Earth. The values are in µSv/h, and the increase as we approached the construction site was clearly visible from 0.5µSv/h up to 1 – 1.3µSv/h. All measurements were taken inside the bus and can be seen in Photo 4.
Photo 3: Increase in dose rate
The first part of the visit inside the zone was to the shelter hall, where all information about the new shelter project is provided. We were informed about the current status of the project, why the new shelter is necessary and which parties are contributing to the project.
The shelter hall is directly opposite to Chernobyl Unit No. 4, but due to security issues we were not allowed to take any photos.
Photo 6: Our group
The group picture in front of Chernobyl Unit No. 4 (see above) was a must, before we were driven off to have lunch.
After lunch we were taken to Prypiat, were we walked around in the deserted city, from the main square to the big wheel and the Palace of Culture. We discovered remains left behind by the departing inhabitants, even though many things had been taken or destroyed. Prypiat left a big impression on all of us. It sometimes seemed like time had stood still for 26 years.
As we were 2 hours behind schedule we left Prypiat at 16.00. The busses back to Kiev should have been waiting for us, but they were also 2 hours late. While waiting for the bus we were able to feed an enormous catfish from the bridge.
In the evening we had a typical Ukrainian dinner with traditional drinks.
Saturday was dedicated to sightseeing in Kiev. Denys had arranged, together with his college, a visit to the famous Lavra cave monastery. It is one of the oldest monasteries in the Russian-Orthodox church and is beautifully located on the west bank of the Dnieper river.
Afterwards we visited the Chernobyl museum, which has a special display dedicated to a 25 years memorial to the accident and a section on the recent Fukushima accident. It is interesting to note that many of the anti–nuclear posters there were printed in Austria. The exhibition was prepared with an eye for detail. Foreign visitors may encounter difficulties walking through the museum as the descriptions are all in Russian, but the museum provides audio guides in 3 languages, which were very helpful.
After a quick lunch we rented a boat for a tour on the Dnieper river, which is an impressive way to see Kiev and is highly recommended.
Photos 9 + 14: Boat Tour
After bidding farewell to our hosts and spending an evening watching a football match, we left Kiev on the Sunday. It was a nice and technically interesting tour, despite a few problems encountered along the way. We all enjoyed the Ukrainian atmosphere, hospitality and style, and we hope that some of us will return one day! Thanks again to our Ukrainian hosts!
© Eileen Radde, 2012