The settlement of Pripyat is five kilometers from the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Its population numbered 50,000 until 1986. Today, Pripyat is a heavily guarded and highly contaminated ghost town in the center of the radioactive zone, which extends from Ukraine deep into Belarus. The villages were evacuated for the most part. Whoever wants to penetrate the barbed-wire fence surrounding the zone needs special permits, and those who wish to leave are checked for radioactive contamination.
PRIPYAT is also the name of the river which flows past the power plant and into the Dnieper. It is still the source of fish for Zone residents.
The 30-km Zone is fenced in with barbed wire. Arbitrarily delineated with a compass, its area does not correspond to the actual contamination of the ground. Although living inside the Zone is still prohibited, homeless have taken advantage of its size, which makes effective patrols impossible. Militiamen stationed at the border check all those who wish to enter the Zone. Taking food or other materials out of the Zone is prohibited.
Approximately 15,000 people work in rotation in the Zone - at the power plant (Unit 3 is still in operation) or in laboratories where the effects of radioactivity on plants and animals are measured. Some are constructing a terminal storage depot and must solve the problems of the desolate sarcophagus under which Unit 4 is buried and that of the ultimate storage of the radioactive wastes. They earn double wages, which is however paid at irregular intervals. What would include a person to consciously risk contamination by working in the Zone?