HBO’s ‘Chernobyl’ sparks excursions, stokes fears in Lithuania

Individuals participate in a guided tour on the inoperative Ignalina nuclear energy plant in Visaginas, Lithuania, on July 31, 2019. AFP / Petras Malukas

Ignalina, Lithuania:  Strolling alongside the highest of Lithuania’s decommissioned nuclear reactor, the set of HBO’s critically acclaimed “Chernobyl” TV collection, vacationer Vytas Miknaitis says he is not “afraid in any respect”.

“They know what they’re doing,” the retired pc engineer from Chicago says, referring to organisers of the three-hour tour of the Ignalina energy station in jap Lithuania.

Comparable in design to Chernobyl, some 450 kilometres (280 miles) away, the Ignalina reactor supplied the backdrop for the present’s outside scenes, shot final yr.

The Baltic state’s solely nuclear energy plant in-built Soviet instances was open to the general public even earlier than the “Chernobyl” drama first aired in Could however has since seen a gentle uptick in guests on the heels of the present’s success.

Vacationers don white overalls, stroll on high of the reactor and tour the varied work stations, together with a command put up constructed to resemble the one within the collection.

They’ll even fake to be the protagonists pushing the varied buttons.

Ignalina plant spokeswoman Natalija Survila-Glebova mentioned that the collection had attracted a brand new stream of holiday makers, largely Lithuanians but additionally overseas vacationers from nations like Poland, Latvia and Britain.

Final month, there have been 900 guests, she advised AFP, including that excursions had been “virtually utterly booked by the top of the yr”. Because of the ongoing dismantling work, excursions are solely open to adults.

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Darkish tourism

The Soviet Union’s Chernobyl plant, in what’s now Ukraine, was the scene of the world’s worst nuclear catastrophe, when one in all its reactors exploded in 1986 throughout testing.

It polluted a giant a part of Europe, with the world instantly across the energy plant the worst affected.

In recent times, the deserted website has turn into a “darkish tourism” vacation spot, even earlier than the eponymous TV drama that has picked up 19 Emmy nominations.

Lithuania, which like Ukraine is a former Soviet republic, started decommissioning Ignalina in December 2009.

The European Union made its closure a situation of the small nation’s 2004 entry into the bloc because the plant had two reactors that had been the identical mannequin as these at Chernobyl.

Drab is fab

“Chernobyl” excursions have additionally sprung up in different components of Lithuania the place the collection was filmed, together with the capital, Vilnius.

Customer Vytautas Kastanauskas, who works in tourism, marvelled at how the producers had been in a position to recast components of the picturesque metropolis as a Soviet-era industrial outpost.

“The environment of the time and the character of the relationships between individuals, all the pieces was recreated completely within the collection,” the 47-year-old, who skilled Soviet instances, advised AFP.

The northern Fabijoniskes neighbourhood was remodeled into Pripyat, a metropolis of almost 50,000 individuals close to Chernobyl that was deserted after the catastrophe.

The makers of “Chernobyl” used the drab, gray district, with row upon row of Soviet-era housing blocks, as the placement to shoot Pripyat’s mass evacuation.

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And one younger Lithuanian has even refurbished his grandparents’ Fabijoniskes residence within the Soviet type and opened it as much as guests and Airbnb stays.

Jurate Pazikaite, of the Vilnius Movie Workplace, says that the collection has “targeted lots of consideration” on the town of round half 1,000,000 individuals, placing it on the map as a first-rate location for filmmakers.

Tax breaks for manufacturing firms launched in 2014 have lured a rising variety of crews, she mentioned.

The BBC’s 2016 miniseries adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s “Warfare and Peace” forged Vilnius as each Nineteenth-century Moscow and the Austrian Alps.

A brand new HBO drama collection, “Catherine the Nice” starring Oscar winner Helen Mirren, has additionally partly been shot within the Lithuanian capital.

Emergency iodine, sirens

However the “Chernobyl” collection isn’t solely producing curiosity and satisfaction in Lithuania.

It has additionally fed into unease that was already felt over a brand new nuclear plant, set to open in neighbouring Belarus.

Spearheaded by the Russian state vitality company, Rosatom, the plant, that includes two reactors, every with a capability of 1,200 megawatts, is anticipated to go surfing later this yr.

Lithuania says that the ability within the northwestern Belarusian city of Ostrovets, simply 20 kilometres (12 miles) from its border, doesn’t meet security requirements.

Minsk rejects the declare.

“The Chernobyl collection has affected us deeply, my pals and I speak about this subject (nuclear threat),” says Ieva Nagyte, a 27-year-old, who works on the Vilnius Academy of Arts.

“If the Ostrovets nuclear reactors exploded, I am undecided we would know what to do,” she advised AFP.

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Nonetheless, Lithuanian authorities are getting ready for the worst — they’ve stockpiled iodine tablets used to thrust back sure types of radiation poisoning, established evacuation routes and are testing emergency sirens, in accordance with the interior affairs ministry.