Chernobyl Zone has appeared owing to the radiation contamination of the area, adjacent to the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. Several decades ago the nuclear reactor 4 exploded. The bulk of the radiation, which escaped from it, fell within the borders of the contemporary Chernobyl Zone.
Up to now in the zone there are places with considerably elevated and even deadly radiation. A prolonged, careless stay at such places can lead to radiation injuries of the body and even to acute radiation sickness (ARS).
However, owing to the clean-up of the zone and the time passed (radiation naturally disintegrates with time), high levels of radiation remain only in immediate proximity to the NPP, mostly at the traces of the most powerful western and northern releases from the reactor, and at some places of the NPP territory. The levels, able to cause acute radiation sickness, remain only inside the Chernobyl Sarcophagus, the enormous “Object ‘Shelter’” construction, which keeps the reactor remnants behind the extremely thick reinforced concrete walls. In such places, only professionals can stay while doing necessary maintenance works.
The routs of our trips are far from such unsafe places. In our buses, for a short while only, we cross western and northern radiation releases’ traces. That is why the total external dose, obtained during usual 10 hours' trip in the zone, is several times smaller then the one received during a transatlantic flight. (During flights at high altitudes the source of irradiation is not contamination but the outer space.)
The probability to swallow or breathe a radioactive particle during 1-2-day trip to the zone (if one follows the designated route and safety regulations) is rather low. Even if it happens, the expectancy that radioactive decay of the atom will take place while it will be in the body (and the irradiation occurs ONLY in the moment of this disintegration) is also very low. It is because the radioactive atoms, which still exist in the zone, are biologically removed from the human body hundreds and millions times more quickly then they physically disintegrate. However, if disintegration and ensuing irradiation nevertheless happen in the body, the resulting injury activates a system of powerful biochemical protective mechanisms. They work in our bodies all the time, repairing them from massive routine everyday injuries, including those from natural radiation, which is everywhere and accompanies us from the moment of conception. These processes in healthy body eliminate a singular radiation injury. For the short-time visits to the zone, following the designated routes and radiation safety regulations, the combination of the factors above reduces the risk of the negative effects of internal irradiation practically to zero.
Until now there is wide spread misconception about the danger of so-called “radioactive iodine” in the contemporary Chernobyl Zone. Radioactive iodine was dangerous for thyroid gland of humans (if the protective pills with the usual iodine had not been taken in advance) only in the first weeks after the explosion. Radioactive iodine has decayed almost completely in three first months, and now is non-existent in the zone.
After reading the above many of you may be perplexed: “If everything is so fine in the zone, why the official radiation safety regulations are so strict?” In our view, some of requirements are already redundant: they were either important earlier, when the radiation levels in the zone were much higher, or they remain valid for the places, which for ordinary visitors of the zone are inaccessible. Nevertheless, in our trips we strictly follow and enforce these official requirements of the zone authority. To be on the safe side, as they say.