Adventurous travelers who visit Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine will soon be able to take home a unique souvenir, in their livers.
Atomik Vodka has been created by a team of scientists from the UK and Ukraine, and it’s made from water and grain harvested from the exclusion zone, an once-forbidden area surrounding the reactor.
This area spans 1,000-square-miles (2,600 square kilometers) and was initially declared uninhabitable for up to 24,000 years after the 1986 meltdown.
Despite this, the makers of Atomik say that their product is no more radioactive than any other vodka on the market.
They say it tastes like rye whiskey with “fruity notes”, and it’s the first product to come from the exclusion zone since the disaster.
The reason for this is that it turns out the exclusion zone is not as dangerous as it was initially feared to be 33 years ago.
There are some radiation hotspots that remain off limits to visitors, where radioactive material from the reactor had directly spilled, but most of the zone is now pretty safe with the risk of radioactive contamination negligible, according to the Ukrainian government. They reopened the zone to tourism nearly a decade ago.
Chernobyl attracts more tourists than any other destination in Ukraine, with more than 60,000 visitors in 2018. After HBO aired their miniseries ‘Chernobyl’, visits spiked by about 30% in May 2019.
Trips to Chernobyl are highly controlled, with tourists being forbidden to touch plants or eat local produce, as local crops may still be contaminated and could cause “serious problems” if ingested.
The rye used in Atomik vodka being grown in the exclusion zone did test positive for radiation. However, according to Atomik co-founder and University of Portsmouth professor Jim Smith, the distillation process removes all traces of contamination. He told the BBC:
“Any chemist will tell you, when you distill something, impurities stay in the waste product”
At the moment, only one bottle of Atomik exists but they hope to produce a further 500 bottles by the end of the year to sell to tourists.
75% of profits will go back to locals living in villages within the exclusion zone, which hasn’t seen much economical development since the disaster 33 years ago.
“After 30 years, I think the most important thing in the area is actually economic development, not the radioactivity,” Smith told the BBC.