- Title: 'Chernobyl' TV series attracts tourists, re-opens old wounds in Lithuania
- Date: 31st July 2019
- Summary: ASTRAVETS, BELARUS (FILE - APRIL 19, 2016) (REUTERS) CRANES ON BUILDING SITE OF ASTRAVETS NUCLEAR POWER PLANT UNDER CONSTRUCTION IN BELARUS CLOSE TO BORDER WITH LITHUANIA CRANES BY COOLING TOWERS UNDER CONSTRUCTION COOLING TOWERS AND CRANES CRANES AND SCAFFOLDING
- Embargoed: 14th August 2019 12:31
- Keywords: Ignalina Power Plant HBO show Chernobyl Lithuania Chernobyl nuclear disaster increasing tourism filming locations
- Location: VISAGINAS, VILNIUS AND PRIENAI, LITHUANIA / ASTRAVETS, BELARUS
- City: VISAGINAS, VILNIUS AND PRIENAI, LITHUANIA / ASTRAVETS, BELARUS
- Country: Lithuania
- Topics: Arts / Culture / Entertainment,Television
- Reuters ID: LVA006AQ3ZW3D
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Walking on top of the reactor at Lithuania's Ignalina nuclear power plant is an "uncomfortable feeling", according to British tourist and fan of HBO's 'Chernobyl' series Tom Slaytor.
Ignalina was shut down in 2009, but the reactor's core remains highly radioactive.
Slaytor was among a group of tourists visiting the plant and its reactor room, where scenes set in the plant at Chernobyl were shot and which was among a number of Lithuanian film locations for the series.
The Baltic country is now hoping to see a spike in tourism from fans of the show, which is based on the events of the world's worst nuclear accident and which has been nominated for 19 Emmy awards.
Jurgita Norvaisiene, a communications specialist at the plant, said she and her colleagues were fielding more and more enquiries by people hoping to visit from across Europe and beyond.
Tours are also taking place in Fabijoniskes, a district of Vilnius where scenes portraying the town of Pripyat within Chernobyl's exclusion zone were filmed.
Aside from hopes of increasing tourist numbers, the series has re-opened old wounds suffered during Lithuania's time as part of the Soviet Union.
In the wake of the disaster at Chernobyl, the Soviet leadership sent an estimated 7,000 Lithuanians to take part in the clean-up effort.
The surviving workers, many of whom suffer from illnesses linked to the clean-up, say their case still needs to be addressed by Lithuania's government.
Sixty-one-year old Kestutis Kazlauskas was 28 when he spent 105 days in a camp 30 kilometres (18 miles) from Chernobyl building a dam to filter out radiation from a river.
He said some of the health problems he has suffered since include thyroid problems, high blood pressure, and his teeth falling out. "I could take them out myself, no doctor needed" he said.
Kazlauskas established an organisation of Lithuanians who worked at Chernobyl to lobby for support from Lithuania's government, such as allowing them to retire early and to offer them health benefits.
But the government is preoccupied with another nuclear worry - that of a plant with two reactors under construction in Astravets in Belarus, not far from the countries' shared border.
The plant, which is being built by Russia's Atomstroyexport and financed with a $10 billion loan from Moscow, has long been viewed by Lithuania as a threat to its safety and national security.
Belarus has denied Lithuanian allegations that the plant is not being built to the highest safety standards. Lithuania's foreign minister says Vilnius has not been convinced.
Back at Ignalina, young Lithuanians also voiced their concerns about the potential downsides of nuclear power.
"I'm really scared actually, I'm against nuclear power plants and I'm for green energy, but what can I do?" said visitor Justina Janusaite.
(Production: Eugenijus Kryzanovskis, Lewis Macdonald)
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