The world's first bottle of vodka was produced by cereals grown in Chernobyl

Thrill-seekers visiting the ruins of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine will soon be able to take a piece of the radioactive historic home… home in bottled form.

A team of scientists from the US and Ukraine have just produced the first bottle of alcohol they call Atomik vodka . This is a spirit made from water and grain harvested in the Chernobyl reactor’s one-time exclusion zone.

Although the roughly 2,600 square kilometer area around the plant was initially declared uninhabitable for 24,000 years after the 1986 crisis, Atomik’s manufacturers ensured that their products were radioactive-free. than any other wine on the market.

The world's first bottle of vodka was produced by cereals grown in Chernobyl
Image of the first bottle of vodka produced by cereals grown in the exclusion zone in Chernobyl.

Part of that is because much of the exclusion zone is not nearly as dangerous as was warned 33 years ago. Some radiation hotspots such as the Red Forest, where much of the radioactive material from the reactor was dumped, remains off-limits to visitors. For the most part, however, the risk of radioactive contamination in much of the exclusion zone is now considered “negligible” by the Ukrainian government, which reopened the area to tourism nearly a decade ago.

Today, Chernobyl is the number 1 tourist destination in Ukraine, with 60,000 visitors in 2018. Visits even increased by about 30% in May 2019.

However, trips to the area remain tightly controlled, with tour groups often banned from touching local plants or eating local produce.

According to Anders Moller, a biologist who has spent several weeks a year studying the exclusion zone for the past few decades, local crops are often contaminated with radiation and can cause “serious problems” if eaten. Right.

Sure enough, the rye that the founders of Atomik grew in the exclusion zone for their vodka tested positive for radiation. However, according to Atomik co-founder and University of Portsmouth professor Jim Smith, all traces of contamination disappear during the distillation process, in which the fermentation liquid is cleaned with water and diluents. Other diluents are removed.

Currently, only one bottle of Atomik vodka exists at this time, but the founders hope to produce at least another 500 by the end of the year and sell them to avid tourists in Chernobyl.

According to Smith, 75% of the profits from vodka sales will go back to people living in the exclusion zone villages, which have seen meager economic growth since the nuclear disaster. 33 years ago.

“After 30 years, I think the most important thing in the region is really economic development, not radiation,” Smith told the BBC.