Nuclear tourism is travel to places connected with nuclear research and technology, places where there have been atomic explosions, or places related to peaceful or wartime use of nuclear energy. They include:
- Sites of nuclear explosions (bombed cities, weapon test sites, sites related to peaceful use of nuclear explosions)
- Sites of nuclear accidents and accidents of nuclear weapon carrying aircraft
- Atomic museums
- Otherwise remarkable sites of projects in nuclear technology
Although in many of the nuclear tourism sites only background radiation can be detected, in some other visitors are confronted with levels above natural background. These include mainly sites related to nuclear accidents and weapons testing. When visiting places with increased radiation, it is reasonable to be equipped with a radiation monitor in order to have control over radiation exposure. The most common devices in a reasonable price range usually contain a Geiger-Müller counter. They are suitable for detection of gamma, x-ray, alpha and beta radiation, typically expressed as counts per second. In other devices the registered gamma radiation is converted in units of dose rate or absorbed dose. These basic counters can not provide information about individual isotopes, natural or man-made, but simply sum up all registered radiation.
In order to be able to use the radiation monitor it is essential to get familiar with the units and ranges of the measured values to evaluate the information obtained from the counter. Additionally, one has to be aware of a strong variation of natural background radiation, which depends mainly on local geology.
1 Hiroshima, Japan, was a target of the first nuclear attack ever on 6 August 1945. Nowadays the event with 90,000–166,000 civilian victims is commemorated at the Atomic Bomb Memorial Museum and in Peace Memorial Park, including the iconic A-Bomb Dome and Children’s Peace Monument covered by colorful paper cranes for bomb victim, Sadako Sasaki. Ground Zero is slightly outside of the park not far from the Atomic Bomb Dome.
Another nuclear bomb was dropped three days later on the industrial town of 1 Nagasaki, Japan, with more than 100,000 victims. Visitors can learn about the tragic piece of history in the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum or the Nagasaki National Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims, both near ground zero.
The aircraft that dropped nuclear weapons on Japanese civilians are in US museums. Enola Gay (the plane which bombed Hiroshima) is displayed at the Udvar-Hazy Center (part of Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum) in Chantilly, Virginia ; Bockscar (which bombed Nagasaki) is on display at the U.S. Air Force Museum near Dayton, Ohio.
See the Pacific War article for the events leading up to the bombs.