A relatively new but increasingly popular form of tourism is atomic tourism. Travellers interested in atomic tourism visit sites where atomic weapons were detonated, vehicles that carried atomic weapons and museums with atomic weapons, all with the intent of learning more about the Atomic Age. Atomic tourism provides a truly unique vacation experience, and some places in the United States allow tours only once a year, adding to the secrecy and mysteriousness of the Atomic Age, which only further increases the popularity of atomic tourism.

Pros and Cons

Like all forms of tourism, atomic tourism has both negatives and positives.

Atomic tourism offers a truly unique form of tourism.

While you can visit a beach or resort any time, some atomic sites, particularly in the United States, allow tours only once a year, meaning there is only a limited number of times you able to see any of these sites. Atomic tourism also provides tremendous insight into world history, particularly about the Atomic Age. It can be controversial, however, especially because recently some travellers have journeyed to Japan to the site of the Fukushima disaster, where thousands of people died. It can also be costly, depending on where you wish to go, but it is certainly a unique experience.

Popular Destinations

Destroyed Chernobyl Reactor 4The site of the worst nuclear disaster in history is also the most popular destination for atomic tourists. In 2011, the Ukranian government deemed certain locations in Chernobyl to be safe, allowing visitors to tour the town of Pripyat, feed catfish in the nuclear plant’s cooling pond, and view the sarcophagus built over the plant. It attracts thousands of tourists each year. Oak Ridge in Tennessee is another popular destination, despite the fact that tours only run through the facilities one day a year. Oak Ridge was established as one of the three sites for assisting with the Manhattan Project, and the entire city was off the map until well after World War II. The first city to be destroyed by a nuclear weapon is another popular destination. Hiroshima, in Japan, was bombed by the United States during World War II, and 30% of the city’s population died. Today the dome is a United Nations World Heritage Site, and serves as a reminder of the devastation the bomb caused.

The Road Less Travelled

man with a cameraWhile not as popular as Oak Ridge, the Hanford nuclear reservation (created in 1943 as part of the Manhattan Project) allows visitors to tour the B Reactor, which features superb exhibits on the lives of people who helped build the bomb. It is also the United States’ most contaminated nuclear site. From April through September the Department of Energy offers free tours, but you need to make a reservation. The Trinity Site in New Mexico is another unique location, as it is where the first atomic bomb was tested. Tours include the McDonald house, where the world’s first plutonium bomb was created, and a replica of the casing used on the bomb that destroyed Nagasaki in Japan during World War II.

Costs and Savings

Touring nuclear facilities and atomic sites is one of the cheaper forms of tourism, mainly because there are so many destinations in the United States. For those who wish to travel to Japan or Chernobyl, however, travel costs can quickly add up. There are many tours available, and it is possible to find discounts on various websites. For many U.S. locations, however, the tours only operate one day a year, and reservations are typically required.