How Ukrainian authorities want to make money on Chornobyl exclusion zone

Author : Olena Holubeva

Source : 112 Ukraine

Ukraine could use part of the land in the exclusion zone for economic purposes. Officials periodically raise this issue, but the authorities do not have any comprehensive vision on this matter. Recently, the Minister of Economy proposed to grow corn there for processing into biogas. At the same time, the authorities are in no hurry to remove the cleared lands of the so-called second zone, which can be used in agriculture. At the helm of the State Agency for Exclusion Zone Management (SAEZM), the agency that manages the exclusion zone, two heads and several acting heads have already been replaced. Now the next competition for the post of the head is being held. Meanwhile, due to the lack of funding, engineering structures, which tourists come to the Zone to gaze at, are falling into decay - buildings in Pripyat can collapse on their heads at any moment, as well as a 16-ton radar station and a rusted observation ring.
22:55, 6 August 2021


Open source

An excursion with the risk of falling through rotten ceilings

Excursions remain the main source of income for the G30. The boom of interest in the protected "thorn" restricted area, which was contaminated with radiation emissions after the worst man-made disaster in the history of mankind at the Chornobyl nuclear power plant, arose in 2010-2011. They say that this happened in part due to the popular computer "shooter", which takes place in the city, created by graphic designers from real photographs and maps of Prypyat.

Related: Chornobyl disaster: Prypyat in 2021 without catastrophe in 1986

"In the peak of 2019, the zone was visited by 120,000 tourists (of which 100,000 were foreign). The State Agency for the Management of the Exclusion Zone (SAEZM) earned 2,2 million USD in net income. With the pandemic, the flow of tourists dropped to almost zero and is still very slowly recovering" acting head of the agency Yevgeny Kramarenko assures. According to official data, from January to May 2021, only 15 399 people visited the exclusion zone for informational purposes. Of these, 11,858 are Ukrainians and 3,541 are foreigners.

With the arrival of Zelensky as president, SAEZM found itself embroiled in a personnel leapfrog, which has been observed for two years in almost all the most important nodes of the state machine. After the dismissal in 2019 of Vitaliy Petruk, who headed the agency for four years in a row (since October 2015), at the helm of the zone, at least three acting and two heads have already changed.

SAEZM deals with four main directions - this is a barrier function - counteracting the removal of radionuclides beyond the border of the exclusion zone; decommissioning of the Chornobyl NPP (activities are planned until 2060); radioactive waste management (there are five branches of the enterprise GSP Association Radon - Kyiv, Kharkiv, Dniprovsky, Odesa, and Lviv plants, which include emergency teams on duty and in case of detection of excess background. artifacts, including those obtained by stalkers in the Zone, as well as at metallurgical plants, where the contaminated metal can get. In the office of the SAEZM, by the way, there were several new posters with information that the voluntary surrender of materials contaminated with radiation frees the culprit from SAEZMalso performs the functions of a governing body on the territory of the exclusion zone. All investment projects are obligatory to pass through the department.

Excursions to the exclusion zone are managed by an enterprise from the SAEZM system - SE "Center for organizational, technical and information support of the exclusion zone management" (COTISEZM). It is responsible for interaction with tour operators in the field of visiting the exclusion zone by tourists. "The duties of the enterprise include the provision of services for the preparation of documents for crossing the border of the exclusion zone, escort along safe routes, general security measures, provision of radiological control, and other services that are necessary to get acquainted with the zone," Kramarenko explained. He said that tour operators work with tourists, earning on the extra charge for the services of SE "COTISEZM". The income of private tour operators is beyond the competence of SAEZM. COTISEZM has 80 contracts with tour operators, with whom it works constantly. At the same time, there are no more than ten large operators that carry groups, Kramarenko specified.

The only danger is engineering structures and former residential and office buildings, which have not been repaired for more than thirty years.
It should be noted that two years ago, during the last visit of the correspondent to Pripyat, the attendants had already warned that when trying to penetrate the buildings, you could grab a brick on your head or fall through the decayed floor ceilings. In many places, they are perforated by the roots of lush vegetation advancing on the abandoned city.

Related: Chornobyl disaster: Its tragedy, myths and future

There is no money to correct this situation. It is noteworthy that the current acting. the head of the agency himself admitted this in a conversation. According to him, recently the state enterprise "COTISEZM" took on the balance of three premises: a bus station, a cafe "Prypyat" and one of the 16-story buildings. "For the funds received from tourism activities, it is planned to conduct an examination of their technical condition. If on the basis of the examination, satisfactory results are obtained, they will be allowed to go inside during the excursions. We are now determining whether we need only a visual or instrumental assessment. In the first case, this is up to half a million. hryvnia for the building and the instrumental assessment will cost much more - up to 186,000 USD and possibly even more. These are approximate figures," said Kramarenko.

The wheel of review, which has become the business card of Prypyat, has not yet been investigated and it is not clear how long it will stand. There is no estimate of the number of funds required for research, said Kramarenko.

Inspection of the Duga radar station is planned. The early detection system for ICBM launches, which has not functioned since the 1980s, is 16 thousand tons of metal, which, after decontamination, can be sent for recycling. "There were many requests for industrial use of this facility (cut into scrap metal, - ed.). The last appeal was three years ago," Kramarenko confirmed. He assured that "Duga" remains a tourist location. "In April, the object was entered into the State Register of Immovable Monuments of Ukraine. There is even an initiative to classify the radar station as a cultural heritage site. A corresponding letter from the Kyiv Regional State Administration has been sent to the Ministry of Culture," the acting director said. heads of SAEZM.

It is difficult to assess how realistic the plans announced by Kramarenko are and whether they coincide with the general line of the Ze-team. Before the publication of the publication, the SAEZM press service conveyed to the comment of the adviser to the Minister of Environment Protection and Natural Resources Lala Tarapakina, who was introduced to us as the head of the Chornobyl. Vidrozhennya project. It begins with the words: “This year, at the initiative of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and with the active support of the President’s Office, we started what the Zone had demanded for many years: giving new meanings to the already existing state of affairs, turning the Chornobyl territories into a Revival Zone.

What is behind these words? Fundamentally new interaction with the consequences of the historical, cultural, scientific, and social heritage of which the 30-kilometer territory consists. 35 years of lessons have helped to understand the uniqueness of the majority of the Chornobyl processes so that society is ready for change.
But the text does not say anything about the sources of financing for large-scale projects or even the assessment of the necessary investments. It is noted that "a detailed and phased plan for changes in the Zone by various means will be brought to the attention of the public in the coming days."

Related: Echo of Chornobyl disaster: 35 later

Radioactive corn and other green projects

In addition to areas of interest to tourists, the Zone has a lot of lands that can be used for agriculture. Minister of Economy Oleksiy Lyubchenko at the international conference on reforms in Ukraine in Vilnius, voicing the "points of economic growth", said that in the Chornobyl zone, where a large amount of land is currently not used due to radiation pollution, it is possible to grow corn for further processing into biogas. Lyubchenko noted that this is "such a complex triple processing, which adds much more added value than simply installing a solar panel, which is extremely ineffective for fulfilling the functions of the state's energy security."
Commenting on the proposal to grow corn, Yevgeny Kramarenko, in an interview with, said that such a project had been considered several years ago. "It was initiated by private investors. They came to the agency to discuss the issue, but it was without official correspondence, without specific legal entities on whose behalf the projects would be conducted, just a general discussion. The implementation of this project requires large investments - the persons who initiated this project. They tried to find foreign investors for them, they could not implement such large-scale projects for their own funds. The last meeting was about a year ago, and they disappeared. There are no contacts," said the acting director of SAEZM.

He clarified that the project involved not only the cultivation of corn and energy willow but also processing by burning trees damaged in the fire. There were large-scale fires in the zone. Areas of leafless tree trunks that survived the fire remained. In the context of cultivation, crops were considered for non-food use only. The territories of the exclusion zone are polluted. What is in the ground can pass into plants. Investors were going to produce electricity and sell it at a green rate.

Of the green energy projects, since 2018, only the 1 MW Solar Chornobyl solar power plant has been officially operating on the territory of the Chornobyl nuclear power plant. This is the only completed project of the direction, despite the fact that in 2017, according to the former head of the State Agency for Management of the Exclusion Zone, Vitaliy Petruk, more than 50 companies expressed a desire to invest in solar energy in the exclusion zone.

Now we have heard nothing about this, although some small projects are being implemented.

According to Kramarenko, two plots on the territory of the cooling pond have already been leased to tenants who want to build new SPPs. Also, there are investors (Polisky Wind Park) who want to build nine more wind farms near Chornobyl. The tender to determine the tenant is held by the SPFU.

It makes no sense to introduce agriculture in the first Zone. "Ten" really remains dirty due to long-lived radioisotopes of plutonium with a contamination density of more than 3.7 kBq / m2 (these are radiation hazardous lands where the population is prohibited from living), and the reserve will act as a buffer zone so that no one can get into any repository. There are no prerequisites for returning the population to the first zone. In addition, the land there is not fertile, there is solid sand. "Ten" is contaminated with plutonium 239 and 240 with half-lives of 24 and 6.500 years. If no decontamination measures are taken and the law is not changed, then people will never be able to live in a ten-kilometer-long one. This area is most suitable for storing spent nuclear fuel, handling radioactive waste and materials, locating hazardous production facilities requiring limited contact with the population," Valeriy Kashparov, director of the Ukrainian Research Institute of Agricultural Radiology at the National University of Bioresources and Nature Management, told.

Related: Declassified: KGB Documents on Chornobyl nuclear disaster

Farmland captured by the zone

The professor recalled that in February 1991 the law "On the legal regime of the territory that was contaminated as a result of the Chornobyl disaster" was adopted. The contaminated areas were divided into four zones of radioactive contamination. Now there are three of them left. This is an exclusion zone, a zone of unconditional (mandatory) resettlement (zone 2) and a zone of guaranteed voluntary resettlement (zone 3). The fourth zone of enhanced radioecological control was eliminated in 2014. In the first two zones, due to the high contamination of the soil with radionuclides, it was forbidden to live and farm without special permission from the executive authority. In the zone of guaranteed resettlement, farming is allowed with the use of countermeasures that would allow for the receipt of pure products.
The settlements were classified as zones of radioactive contamination in 1991 by decree 106 of the Cabinet of Ministers. The first zone included 76 settlements, 86 and 841 settlements were assigned to the second and third zones. "For 30 years, the boundaries of the zones have not changed, although the radionuclides decayed (for every 30 years the activity of 90Sr and 137Cs decreases approximately 2 times), the dirty territories have become clean," Kashparov assured.

The professor said that, for example, in Belarus, the boundaries of the zones are revised every five years, including in Russia, in Japan where the disaster at Fukushima occurred. And only in Ukraine, this does not happen. "Decisions to change the borders are made on the basis of an expert opinion. Based on our conclusions, already in 2011, all settlements assigned to the second zone might not belong to it. Of the 841 settlements of the third zone, only 111 settlements could be attributed in accordance with the Law. Now the radiological situation has improved even more. Despite the lack of official data on the real doses of radiation to the population in Ukraine after 2012, the third zone now includes no more than 20-30 settlements, and this is a zone where you can live and The second zone, where the population lives, in theory no longer exists, but officials are afraid to cancel the zones, they fear the reaction of the population. economic development. No shares are issued in these territories," says the professor.

Now, once again, the question arose about the possible withdrawal of farmland on this territory from the status of a radioactive contamination zone. Potentially, more than 20 thousand hectares can be returned to agriculture, since back in 1991 in the Zhytomyr region at least 41 thousand hectares were withdrawn from economic use, not for radiological indicators. “We partially examined these fields. The 137Cs contamination density turned out to be less than 555 kBq / m2, according to the law they no longer belong to the second zone, but belong to the third zone. And in principle, it is already possible to change their status and transfer them to the third zone, and some should be removed from the zones of radioactive contamination at a pollution density of less than 185 kBq / m2. Otherwise, the cultivation of agricultural products on the territory will be illegal," said Kashparov.

Agriculture, according to article 12 of the law on the legal regime on the territory of the exclusion zone, is prohibited, Kramarenko stressed. He is aware of the situation with farmland, which could be removed from the status of contaminated.
It is not known when the status of farmland will be changed and residents will receive the legal right to grow agricultural products.

In an interview with, Kashparov spoke about another serious problem that the authorities should seriously think about. The status of settlements classified as zones does not change either. Since 2012, the additional certification has not been carried out, which, according to the law, must be carried out annually. Since 1991, the status of only 6 settlements has been changed by a strong-willed effort - in 2004. Four in the Rivne region and two in the Volyn region. This was done in order to be able to invest in the construction of schools, roads, in the development of these settlements, where people stayed. Since then, nothing has changed.

Related: Shooting of Ukrainian-German Chornobyl TV series begins

It would be good for the authorities to take a real solution to the problems associated with the Zone and the people who live in its territories. The territories once referred to the second and third zones should be checked, and clean farmland should be used with benefit, not stand idle. In the most polluted first Zone, while developing projects that generate cache, one should not forget about science. The Chornobyl exclusion zone is a unique testing ground, which has no analogs in the world. It is very disappointing that it is used very little for science, says Kashparov. According to him, the best thing would be to turn the zone into a radioecological scientific hub for research. The Chornobyl zone is a unique area for international radiological research.

"In the territories affected by the Fukushima accident, research has been going on for a long time. On their basis, the Japanese have published tens of times more scientific articles than we did. And we, having such a unique test site in Chornobyl, have lost a lot of Experts from all over the world are working at test sites in Japan, writing Ph.D. theses. And all this happens haphazardly, sporadically. There is a grant - work is underway. The grant is over - what will be, will be," the professor commented.

Related: Chornobyl on fire: What's happening in Exclusion Zone?

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