Prior to the accident, the Jupiter factory was a branch of the Kyiv manufacturer “Mayak” and made electrical components, mainly for use in tape recorders. Rumours abound of a military connection and given the nature of the defence industry at that time it is very possible there is truth in this. Following the disaster in 1986, the factory housed radiology laboratories used to test decontamination techniques and dosimetry equipment. The laboratories functioned up until 1996 at which point the factory was abandoned for good.
Located on the outskirts of Pripyat, but within easy walking distance, the factory is split across a number of buildings with the office complex the closest, and tallest, building you see as you enter through its gates. Located in the centre of the site is the large factory building, much of it open plan, surrounded by a number of smaller buildings.
On entering the offices, I presumed I’d be able to make my way from one end of the building to the other. Perhaps I just missed the doorways but certainly on the upper floors at least, the offices appear to be split into two separate parts. I spent what seemed like a disconcerting amount of time peering out the empty windows of one side across and into the offices of the other, seemingly only an elusive doorway away.
Various rooms have been adapted or converted to living accommodation with many cluttered with sofas, chairs and beds in various states of decay. Clothing still hangs on the backs of doors next to shelving and cupboards full of books. A makeshift washing line crisscrosses one room and pot plants, long dead, somehow still cling on to their dried leaves.
In the factory building, presumably once a hive of noise and activity, puddles and junk now litter the floor. The rooms that once held massive machinery sit empty. Their contents long since removed. As I walk outside at the back of the building a large owl swoops out and away from a room to my left. At the rear are a number of coaches including one propped precariously on its side. It’s a dramatic scene, almost as if a last stand took place here.
The various warning posters around the factory detailing the precautions that must be observed when working with radiation are a clear sign of its past use. Not so clearly labelled, and hidden amongst the debris or sat innocuously on shelving, are a number of items still very much live and very radioactive. Watch your step in there.
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