Nuclear tourism brings millions of profit

Global "nuclear tourism" is actively developing. Parts of the world whose history should be repelling tourists are becoming the places of pilgrimage for thrill seekers. Tourists travel to the towns of Pripyat and Chernobyl, and the nuclear test site in Nevada. Local authorities do not suppress the dangerous tourism, but instead derive decent income from it.

The authorities not only do not hesitate to let the curious tourists to the area of the former nuclear projects, but also invest large amounts of money in creating tourist zones to accommodate mass tourism. Recently the information was released that a new "territory of fear" will be added to the list of attractive places for "nuclear tourism." This place is located in north-west China near the desert, where China's first nuclear bomb was created.

The authorities of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, where the polygon base Malan is located, have publicly announced that they intended to invest over 6 million Yuan or $1 million to create a tourist attraction at the nuclear test site. Every traveler who wants to personally contemplate where and under what conditions the Chinese worked on the bomb will be provided with a 300-meter shelter and will see laboratories and dormitory that were home to nuclear scientists from China. There, in Malan, on October 16th, the first test of the nuclear device in China was conducted. Over 40 nuclear bombs were later blown up in the area. The tests lasted until 1996, when Beijing was forced to stop all nuclear tests.

The grounds were empty for over a decade, and the local authorities were allowed by the central government to convert the site into a tourist center. The Chinese seriously hope that the money invested in the reconstruction of Malan will be repaid with interest by the curious tourists tired of sandy beaches.

The expectations of the Chinese may be well justified. The evidence is the number of tourists to the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine. If earlier stalkers who entered the area through the holes in the barbed wire were the only ones who wanted to see the zone of a terrible nuclear disaster of the last century, today we are talking about full-fledged tours. A standard tour to Chernobyl includes services such as a visit to the observation deck overlooking the Chernobyl "Shelter," a visit to the Prometheus monument and memorial plaques to those killed in the accident, visits to the Chernobyl cooling pond and fish feeding, tours through the streets of the deserted city of Pripyat, including a visit to children's park, meals in the dining room of "Chernobylinterinform" (on request and at an additional cost), etc.

Incidentally, the town of Pripyat is one of the favorite tourist destinations. This desolate, deserted place, from which on April 27th of 1986's all residents were evacuated, can impress everyone. Decontamination activities were conducted in the city after the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, which led to a reduction of background radiation. However, some tourists continue to complain about the way they feel after visiting the exclusion zone. The price of a guided tour to Chernobyl ranges from $120 for the citizens of Russia and Ukraine, and about $150 for foreign nationals wishing to join the Russian-speaking group. "There is a demand, and we need to let people in, let them look at it," once said Minister of Emergency Situations Viktor Baloha. "We will open the access, and businesses will work here."

Deputy State Agency for exclusion zone Dmitry Bobro disagrees with him. In the early fall of 2012, he said that Pripyat should be dismantled. He said that the Ukrainian officials have 10 years while the abandoned houses stand up against the weather. According to Bobro, Ukraine will not be able to support the financing of the city that had 50 thousand residents over twenty years ago. The officials fear the worst-case scenario that could happen in the Chernobyl area. If the Soviet-built houses start collapsing, it can cause a chain reaction. If the entire city comes down, it will raise radioactive dust that, considering winds, may reach the territory of the plant where the people are still working at the "Shelter" facility.

The issue of Pripyat is now being solved in Ukraine under the national program for decommissioning the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and the transformation of the "Shelter." With regard to tourism, the authorities are convinced that even if the city is to be leveled, the flow of tourists to the area will not dry up, as the interest in Chernobyl is heated up by S. T. A.L.K.E.R. computer game.

Meanwhile, the nuclear test site in Nevada, one of the largest in the U.S., manages perfectly well without the incentive of the tourist industry. Since 1951, 928 nuclear tests were conducted on its territory, 828 of which under the ground. It was here, north-east of Los Angeles, where for over a decade "mushroom clouds" soaring in the sky could be seen 160 kilometers away. Later the tests were moved underground and continued until 1992.

Today, thrill seekers from the entire American continent visit the nuclear test site. The waiting list for this tour is filled months ahead, which brings the local authorities regular income. Adjacent to the testing grounds is a highly classified in the recent past, famous "Area 51", surrounded by numerous myths associated with UFOs and secret contacts of the Americans with aliens.

Nuclear test sites that were empty after the ban on nuclear weapons testing got a new life thanks to tourism. If before turning hazardous area into an attraction was done by tourists, now local authorities are making efforts to create a brand out of desolate areas to fuel the economy of a particular town, state, or region. This model fully meets the needs of the modern capitalist world, and the only thing that can be demanded from the officials who organize "nuclear tourism" is responsibility for the safety of the guests of the "dead zones."

Anatoly Miranovsky


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Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov