Simon Calder, also known as The Man Who Pays His Way, has been writing about travel for The Independent since 1994. In his weekly opinion column, he explores a key travel issue – and what it means for you.
You could tell from the online application form that this was no ordinary day-trip: “Name and surname? Vegetarian? Geiger counter?”
Thirty-five years ago in northern Ukraine, a bright spring day gave way to a clear night. At the V I Lenin nuclear power plant outside the village of Chernobyl, the late shift in charge of reactor number four were conducting a shut-down test. But design flaws, random events and fatally poor decisions combined to trigger the world’s worst nuclear disaster.
At 1.30am on 26 April 1986, the reactor exploded, killing some people instantly and many more over the following years. Radioactive material laid waste to territory both in Ukraine and across the border in Belarus, while the wind carried debris across Europe.
The clean-up after this unprecedented disaster involved hundreds of thousands of people and many acts of heroism as soldiers and engineers battled to prevent an even bigger disaster.
The reactor is now guarded within an exclusion zone…