The Chernobyl Exclusion Zone: yesterday, today, tomorrow
The Chernobyl Exclusion Zone: yesterday, today, tomorrow

The President of Ukraine paid a working visit to the exclusion zone and signed the Decree “On Certain Issues of the Development of Territories Affected by Radioactive Contamination as a Result of the Chernobyl Disaster” in July of this year, defining the development of the Chernobyl Zone as a tourist attraction, including involving waterways, as one of its priorities.

There are a lot of promising ideas based on the use of innovative resources taking into account modern technologies in the development projects of the Exclusion Zone. What is the essence of some of them – let’s figure it out …

On September 12, 2019, the State Agency of Ukraine for Management of the Exclusion Zone presented the results of the Pripyat 2019 comprehensive research expedition, organized by the Chernobyl Radiation-Ecological Biosphere Reserve together with the State Institution “Scientific Hydrophysical Center of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine”, a branch of the state institution “ State Hydrography ”, State Institution “ State Hydrography”, “Dniprovsky District of State Hydrography” and the State Enterprise “Ecocenter”.

The expedition participants conducted radiation-ecological monitoring, hydrographic, sonar and hydrological studies in the waters of the main navigation channel of the Pripyat River within the Reserve.

The results of the study of the main waterway of the exclusion zone will allow the Agency to make informed decisions about the possibility of introducing new tourist routes, taking into account the most responsible approach to achieving the objectives. After all, the life and health of visitors are the main priorities of the State Agency for the Management of the Exclusion Zone.

As a result of the research, more than 20 underwater and 6 surface objects representing a serious navigational hazard (partially or completely sunken ships and barges, shallows, stones, etc.), as well as objects representing an environmental hazard were discovered in the coastal strip and the bed of the Pripyat River (with the remains of oil products). Another part of the objects found during sonar imaging requires additional study and registration on maps for monitoring and re-examination.

The results of the expedition give a full understanding of the situation on water routes and the basis for guaranteeing safety in the further development of tourism infrastructure in the Exclusion Zone. A comprehensive and thorough assessment of the results will make it possible to discover interesting new tourist routes, including taking into account interference with the natural environment of the Reserve.

Now we are talking about moving small-sized boats and strict observance of seasonal restrictions associated with the spawning period, bird nesting and so on, because the Pripyat River is not just unique landscapes attractive for tourism. This is a kind of oasis of the Red Book representatives of flora and fauna, migration routes and nesting places for water birds and a unique object for scientific research.

Chernobyl – Fukushima: stages of cooperation

As part of the Agreement on Scientific Cooperation between the National Corporation, Fukushima University (Japan) and the Chernobyl Radiation-Ecological Biosphere Reserve, the next stage of research was carried out, provided for by the technical conditions of the document.

The work was carried out with the participation of researchers from the Institute of Nuclear Research of the NAS of Ukraine. At this stage, scientists studied the long-term biological effects of ionizing radiation in indicator species of mouse-like rodents in radiation-contaminated territories. The laboratory of the Chernobyl Reserve has fully ensured the conduct of hematological, cytogenetic, biochemical studies at the proper level with the help of modern equipment.

Additionally, this Agreement, signed a year ago, is being implemented as part of a scientific and technical partnership for sustainable development within the framework of the Japanese state program under the control of the Japan International Cooperation Agency and the Japanese Science and Technology Agency.

The objective of the Reserve in this project is to study the concentration of radionuclides in the biota of the reservoir-cooler and biological objects near it. Today, the cooling pond is a very interesting ecological landfill. Its decommissioning may raise a number of questions regarding the environmental consequences of draining a large area.

Long-term prospects

Recently, as part of international cooperation, the delegation of the Reserve took part in the work of the Program Committee in the direction “Climate, Environment, Efficient Use of Resources and Raw Materials” in Brussels, the Kingdom of Belgium.

The members of the Ukrainian delegation held a series of negotiations with representatives of different countries interested in working with domestic researchers to prepare joint project proposals on the main topics of the competitions within the framework of the European Union’s Research and Innovation Horizon 2020 program.

In addition to expert work, representing the interests of the Chernobyl radiation-ecological biosphere reserve, our delegation presented the scientific project CHERNOBYL Life sciences HUB, aimed at international cooperation in the field of scientific research in areas contaminated by the Chernobyl accident, as well as attracting investment in the development of scientific tourism in the Exclusion Zone.

It should be noted that the Reserve has already had quite substantial achievements in this area and is ready for active mutually beneficial cooperation with institutions and organizations of other countries participating in research programs.

So, the Reserve staff still has a lot of work ahead of them to complete their tasks. International scientific cooperation, the scientific research expedition in Pripyat are just the first step on the way of transforming the Exclusion Zone into the scientific and tourist Mecca, not only for Ukraine, but for the whole world.