Chernobyl's reactor 4 control room opens to the public for the first time

The highly-contaminated control room of Chernobyl's reactor 4 is now open to the public for the first time, but with some serious precautions.

In 1986, the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant suffered the worst nuclear energy disaster recorded to date.

The site has been a popular location for dark tourists for years, but visitor numbers skyrocketed this year with the release of HBO's hit miniseries Chernobyl.

In that show, as with the true story it's based on, the reactor 4 control room is the epicentre of the real disaster.

To enter the newly opened area, visitors must be part of organised tours with official tourist agencies. They must wear protective suits, respirators and helmets and will only be able to be in the room for five minutes.

Once they're out, they have to undergo two radiology tests to measure their exposure. 

According to the World Nuclear Association, about 200 tonnes of highly radioactive material remains in reactor 4 and the control room has radiation levels 40,000 times higher than normal.

The Ukranian government is developing new tourist routes around the site, with added walkways and checkpoints, reports CNN. The decision to open up more of the site to tourism comes after a decree Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelensky signed in July, designating Chernobyl an official tourist attraction.

"We must give this territory of Ukraine a new life," Zelensky said.

"Until now, Chernobyl was a negative part of Ukraine's brand. It's time to change it."

People wanting to explore the notorious power plant ruins can do so through companies such as Chernobyl Welcome, SoloEast and Chernobyl Tour.

Prices start at around NZ$145.