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Nuclear disaster site Chernobyl sees spike in tourism thanks to HBO miniseries

Guides insist the area is safe for visitors

Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The site where a nuclear reactor exploded in Ukraine 33 years ago is experiencing another boom — in tourism — all thanks to the wildly successful HBO miniseries "Chernobyl."

What are the details?

HBO's portrayal of the worst nuclear accident in history has been hailed as some of the best television made in history. "Chernobyl" became entertainment review site iMDB's highest rated television show ever, winning over viewers and critics alike.

Since the miniseries launched in May, tour agencies in Chernobyl have seen a marked spike in bookings, according to Reuters.

Multiple local guide companies told the outlet they've seen 30 to 40 percent increases in both current business and future bookings. Curious travelers are offered trips to the plant grounds where the reactor remains entombed, aerial tours, and even the opportunity to dine at Chernobyl's only operating restaurant.

According to the site Chernobyl City, over 38,000 people booked tours of Pripyat (the town where the explosion occurred) in 2016 alone, in spite of the fact that the territory "still contain[s] a number of hot radiation spots."

In spite of the influx of tourists flocking to the site, questions remain as to the safety of the area given the magnitude of the radioactive material which remains and the fact that its effects are expected to last a millenium.

Guides say not to worry. Viktoria Brozhko told Reuters, "During the entire visit to the Chernobyl exclusion zone, you get around two microsieverts, which is equal to the amount of radiation you'd get staying at home for 24 hours."

But a travel writer for The Telegraph noted just a few years ago that "Ukrainian officials have suggested that Pripyat will not be inhabitable for another 20,000 years."

The author further noted that visitors at the site are instructed not to sit down, and are checked for radioactive particles before leaving.

Anything else?

NBC News reported that 31 people were killed immediately after the tragedy, and a study out of Belarus estimates the total death toll from the Chernobyl disaster to be as high as 115,000.

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