The words 'Chernobyl' and 'Fukushima' have now effectively became synonymous with ‘nuclear disaster’. The two plants became sites of the worst nuclear catastrophes in history, both of them graded Level 7 on the International Nuclear Event Scale.
And despite the fact that the facilities are situated thousands of kilometers apart from each other, not to mention the fact that the Fukushima Daiichi disaster took place nearly 25 years after the Chernobyl catastrophe, some pictures taken at the two sites look eerily similar.
- Self Defense Force soldiers remove debris at tsunami washed field in the city of Minamisoma in Fukushima prefecture on May 2, 2011.© AFP 2021 / Yoshikazu Tsuno
- The city of Gomel in Belarus, afflicted by the radioactive fallout from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.© AFP 2021 / STF
- Amusement park at the abandoned city of Pripyat.© AFP 2021 / TASS
- Playground at a kindergarten in the deserted town of Futaba, inside the 12-mile evacuation zone around the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.© AP Photo / Sergey Ponomarev
- People line up for radiation screening at Koryama in Fukushima prefecture on March 21, 2011.Go Takayama
- 4th Unit of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant.© Sputnik / Igor Kostin
- Soldiers check radiation levels of cars leaving the city of Chernobyl.© Sputnik / Yniakin
- Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) Fukushima No.1 nuclear power plant at Okuma town in Fukushima prefecture.© AFP 2021 / HO / AIR PHOTO SERVICE
- Chernobyl nuclear plant© AFP 2021 / TASS / Zufarov
- Local residents look at a damaged house caused by a tsunami in Minamisoma, Fukushima Prefecture.© AFP 2021 / Toru Yamanaka
- A doll with a gas mask lies on the frame of a bed in the sleeping room of a kindergarten in the deserted town of in Pripyat.© AP Photo / Sergey Ponomarev
- A member of decontamination team sprays a house in Chernobyl.© Sputnik / Igor Kostin
- Japan's Self-Defense Force soldiers remove debris left by the March 11 tsunami in the city of Minamisoma in Fukushima prefecture on May 2, 2011.© AFP 2021 / Yoshikazu Tsuno
- Technicians clear debris from the roof of the damaged Chernobyl Nuclear Plant unit.© Sputnik / Igor Kostin
- Koriyama fire department staff check radiation levels of rescue personnel in Koriyama city in Fukushima prefecture on March 13, 2011.© AFP 2021 / JIJI PRESS
- Personnel assigned to remove debris from the roof of the damaged Chernobyl Nuclear Plant unit don protective suits.© Sputnik / Igor Kostin
- A bicycle and doghouse sit amongst overgrown grass and weeds at an abandoned farm in Iitate, just outside the 20 kilometer exclusion zone around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.© AP Photo / Greg Baker
- Policemen in radiation proof suits gather to search for missing victims in Namie, Fukushima prefecture.© AFP 2021 / Stringer
- Technicians wearing protective suits conduct decontamination of the Chernobyl Nuclear Plant.© Sputnik / Vitaliy Ankov
- Abandoned buildings in Chernobyl© AFP 2021 / STF
- An aerial view of the quake-damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant.© AFP 2021 / JIJI PRESS
- The view of crippled Chernobyl Nuclear Plant© AFP 2021 / TASS / Zufarov
- The deserted streets of Ichinoseki in Miyagi prefecture.© AFP 2021 / Mike Clarke
- Abandoned school in Fukushima prefecture.© Photo : IAEA/Giovanni Verlini
- Classrom in an abandoned school in Chernobyl.© Flickr / Kyle Taylor
- Сrippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Okuma, Japan.© AP Photo / David Guttenfelder
However, despite the unnerving atmosphere and a host of clear and present dangers concealed there, the Chernobyl exclusion zone has become a popular destination not just for looters, but for tourists from all over the world as well, with the first tours to the dangerous area reportedly taking place as early as 1995.
The popularity of the radioactive territory surrounding the crippled Chernobyl plant also surged in 2007, following the release of the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. videogame, as the game’s setting was closely modelled after the real Chernobyl exclusion zone.
Eventually, despite the fact that any unauthorized visit to the exclusion zone is considered a criminal offense in Ukraine, the people who enjoy illegally infiltrating that area even formed their own subculture. Calling themselves stalkers, they became true adepts at bypassing all sorts of natural and manmade obstacles that can be encountered during an illegal trip to the nuclear graveyard of Chernobyl.
Furthermore, a number of people actually live in the Chernobyl exclusion zone – former residents who either came to reclaim their homes, abandoned during the evacuation in 1986, or squatters who moved into derelict buildings.
And despite the dangers of Chernobyl, it has become a "hot" hit with tourists. In 2003 Forbes magazine even named the Chernobyl Nuclear Plant as a most "exotic" tourist destination in the world.
Representatives of Go2Chernobyl, one of the largest companies that sell tours to Chernobyl, told Sputnik that last year alone they had nearly 20,000 clients, and that sometimes they get up to 3-4 thousand clients per week.
One of the company guides, Victor, also added that they were once visited by a man from Japan who apparently is looking into creating a similar enterprise to sell tours to Fukushima Daiichi plant.