Ukrainian president wants Chernobyl to become 'official tourist attraction'

Chernobyl is set to become a tourist attraction.
Chernobyl is set to become a tourist attraction. Photo credit: AAP

The site of the world's worst nuclear accident is set to be transformed into an official tourist attraction, according to Ukraine's president.

A decree signed by President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday has outlined plans for brand-new walking trails, waterways, checkpoints and and enhanced mobile phone reception in the area surrounding Chernobyl, BBC reports. 

"Chernobyl has been a negative part of Ukraine's brand. The time has come to change this," said Zelensky.

Zelensky, who was elected earlier this year, said on Wednesday that he wants the "real ghost town" to be shown to the world - despite its higher-than-normal radiation levels and coating of radioactive dust.

In April 1986 a reactor at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant exploded, forcing hundreds of thousands to evacuate and killing at least 31 people - although this number remains disputed. The radiation from the explosion travelled across Europe.

A concrete and steel dome, designed to prevent the continued leaking of radioactive substances over the next century, was placed over the remains of the reactor in 2016. The shield reportedly cost NZ$2.5 billion to build.

Thousands of tourists visit the nuclear wasteland annually, despite the area still being plagued by radioactive contamination to this day.

Tourism companies have reported a 30 to 40 percent increase in Chernobyl visitors following the release of HBO's popular and acclaimed Chernobyl miniseries.

The remaining radioactive materials could pose serious health risks for those who come into direct contact. The contamination has been particularly linked to cases of thyroid cancer.