Not many people know of Pripyat specifically, but they know what happened here. On April 26, 1986, the worlds worse nuclear reactor meltdown happened here. Reactor Number 4 in the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant suffered a catastrophic power increase. The emergency shutdown procedures created a second power surge that resulted in the rupture of the reactor vessel and a cascading failure of steam explosions. The explosions exposed the graphite moderator to the air, which in turn ignited and sent a plume of radioactive smoke into the air.
In the immediate area, 31 people died that day. Over the next thirty six hours, the forty nine thousand people who lived in this town were evacuated. Radioactive fallout from the area fell on the Russian state of Belarus and spread over Europe. A total of 350,000 people were premaritally evacuated from contaminated areas, and another 530,000 emergency personnel were affected by radiation.
An area called the “zone of alienation” extends 19 miles in all directions from the plant. 300 people still live in the area, all of whom refused to leave, but it is largely overgrown with forests and wildlife now. This includes Pripyat. The city was built to house workers and scientists for the nuclear plant, what remains is a glimpse of daily life interrupted.
Since 2011, Ukraine has allowed tourists to visit the area on short visits. Before that though, people were sneaking in to take pictures. Workers are still limited in the amount of time they can spend at the plant, and it is estimated that radioactive levels will be a problem for 20,000 more years.