Nuclear heritage: Chernobyl wants to become World Heritage site

Will the infamous Chernobyl nuclear power plant become a World Heritage site? Image: Zheka-Boss (Canva) CC0

Almost 35 years after the nuclear disaster in Ukraine, authorities hope to make the 30km Chernobyl Exclusion Zone a Unesco World Heritage site. To achieve the protected status, a place “must be of outstanding universal value”, according to UNESCO. The Ukrainian government hopes the preservation of the abandoned plant will attract more tourists. 

Oleksandr Tkachenko, the Ukrainian culture minister, believed that putting Chernobyl on the UNESCO heritage list is a first step towards making the former plant a unique destination. “The importance of the Chernobyl zone lies far beyond Ukraine’s borders”, he told Reuters. “It is not only about commemoration, but also history and people’s rights.” 

Road to protection

Before Chernobyl can apply for a spot on the world heritage list, authorities must first add it to a cultural and historic heritage list in its country of origin. Tkachenko said his ministry recently decided to include a military radar built near Chernobyl in the 1970s to the list. It is discussing expanding the protected status to the whole exclusion zone.

The abandoned towns and areas surrounding the former plant need repairing to ensure they will not collapse. Gaining national and possible international protection could secure the future of the desolate buildings, rubble and wasteland inside the 30km exclusion zone. (Text continues below image)

An abandoned kindergarten wihtin the Chernobyl exclusion zone. The towns surrounding the former nuclear plant have been deserted for almost 35 years. Image: Tijuana2014 (Canva) CC0

Disaster tourism

The unique character of Chernobyl already proved to be very attractive for travellers. Around 124.000 so-called “disaster tourists” visited the former power plant in 2019, Live Science reported. One of the reasons for the success was the release of a popular HBO series about Chernobyl that same year.

Tkachenko hoped that after the pandemic, tourists would find their way back to the former nuclear plant. A Unesco World Heritage status would certainly help to promote the Ukrainian wasteland. If you want to know more about how a holiday in Chernobyl might look like, you can check out the Vice documentary below. The documentary was made for the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster, and was filmed before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Source: Live Science, Reuters and UNESCO

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