(CBS) – Scientists have distilled vodka from ingredients found in the Chernobyl exclusion zone, creating the first consumer product out of the area since the nuclear disaster over 30 years ago. Called Atomik, the artisan vodka is actually an experiment from researchers looking into how much radioactivity would transfer over to crops grown in the zone, according to the Chernobyl Spirit Company, the team that created it.
Chernobyl Spirit Company made the liquor out of rye grain they planted in the exclusion zone and water from an aquifer in Chernobyl. After distilling it and conducting tests, James Smith, a University of Portsmouth environmental scientist and part of the group, told CBS News partner BBC they concluded that their product is “no more radioactive than any other vodka.”
“Any chemist will tell you, when you distill something, impurities stay in the waste product,” Smith said. They sent the Chernobyl vodka to Southhampton University in the U.K. to undergo testing for possible radioactivity.
“They couldn’t find anything — everything was below their limit of detection,” he said.
The only problem with the vodka is that so far there’s only one bottle of it, according to the BBC. The team said in a blog post they plan on making more bottles of Atomik, with the hope of making a profit to help local communities that surround the abandoned zone.
The recent HBO series “Chernobyl” renewed interest in the disaster and the site where it transpired. Fears of radiation have kept many away from the exclusion zone, which was evacuated in the aftermath of the 1986 nuclear accident, but thousands of tourists now travel to the site every year. So many, in fact, that Ukraine’s president announced plans to make the site and surrounding areas more tourist friendly. The plans include new waterways and checkpoints in the area, enhanced cellphone reception and new walking trails. Filming restrictions will also be lifted.
Back in April 1986, when the region was part of the Soviet Union, a reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant exploded, resulting in at least 32 deaths in the immediate aftermath. After initially downplaying the risk, the communist regime soon forced thousands of people to evacuate, turning the nearby city of Pripyat into a ghost town. Hundreds of square miles surrounding the reactor remain off limits.