In Brief

Ukraine seeks World Heritage status for abandoned Chernobyl nuclear plant

Area should be preserved as ‘unique destination of interest for the whole of mankind’, minister says

Ukraine wants to apply to have the Chernobyl nuclear plant and its surrounding areas listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site alongside some of the world’s most culturally significant places.

In an announcement timed to coincide with the 35th anniversary of the disaster today, Ukraine hopes that the assignment will “draw funding and more tourists” to the “mothballed nuclear power station surrounded by wasteland, rubble and abandoned buildings”, The Guardian reports.

“We believe that putting Chernobyl on the UNESCO heritage list is a first and important step towards having this great place as a unique destination of interest for the whole of mankind,” said Oleksandr Tkachenko, the Ukrainian culture minister.

“The importance of the Chernobyl zone lays far beyond Ukraine’s borders… It is not only about commemoration, but also history and people’s rights,” he said.

Thirty-one plant workers and firemen died in the immediate aftermath of the 1986 disaster, mostly from acute radiation sickness. The explosion of the fourth reactor also spread contaminated material across much of western Europe, with thousands more dying of radiation-related illnesses such as cancer in the following years.

“All of the buildings in Pripyat, a ghost town that was once home to 50,000 people mostly working at the plant, are in need of repair,” The Guardian says, with Tkachenko saying that the popularity of the HBO show Chernobyl may prompt an increase in the number of tourists wanting to visit the site.

“Vegetation and decay has taken over much of the surrounding area,” Sky News reports. The plant is now “out of service and all four of its reactors are due to be dismantled by 2064”. 

Bohdan Borukhovskyi, Ukraine’s deputy environment minister, told the broadcaster: “This is a place of tragedy and memory, but it is also a place where you can see how a person can overcome the consequences of a global catastrophe.

“This is an area of meditation and reflection, an area where you can see the impact of human error, but you can also see the human heroism that corrects it.”

Other UNESCO World Heritage sites include the Taj Mahal, Stonehenge, Machu Picchu, the Great Barrier Reef and the Acropolis in Athens.

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