Sean Cate
Sean Cate
June 24, 2024 ·  3 min read

Tourists Take Photos With One of ‘Most Radioactive Items’ Inside Chernobyl Exclusion Zone

Tourists visiting the Chernobyl exclusion zone have recently made headlines by posing with one of the most radioactive items still present: a large claw from a digger used in the aftermath of the 1986 disaster. Despite the risks, these tourists ventured close to this dangerous relic, highlighting the ongoing fascination and hazards associated with the Chernobyl site.

The Chernobyl Disaster and Its Legacy

Credit: Pixabay

The Chernobyl nuclear disaster occurred in 1986, leading to widespread radioactive contamination and the establishment of an exclusion zone around the nuclear power plant. While the area was accessible to tourists for a period, the Russian invasion of Ukraine two years ago has turned it into a warzone, making visits highly dangerous.1 The exclusion zone remains filled with remnants of the disaster, including highly radioactive materials.

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The Infamous Claw

Chernobyl's claw of Death

Among the various radioactive items scattered throughout Chernobyl’s exclusion zone is a large claw used to clear radioactive debris from reactor number four. This claw is one of the most hazardous artifacts left from the cleanup efforts. During a 2019 tour of Pripyat, Archaeologist Rob Maxwell recorded radiation levels of 39.80 microsieverts per hour (uSv/h) from the claw, making it over 100 times more radioactive than typical background radiation levels.

Tourists’ Reckless Encounter

chernobyl tourists
Credit: X

In a recent incident, a pair of tourists were photographed climbing inside and touching the radioactive claw. This act, driven by the desire for social media attention, posed significant health risks. Although brief exposure within Chernobyl is unlikely to cause immediate severe harm, prolonged contact or contamination from radioactive dust could have more serious long-term effects.

Radiation Risks and Health Implications

radiation levels in chernobyl
Credit: Getty

Radiation is present everywhere in Chernobyl’s environment, but the levels emanating from the claw are dangerously high. Spending a few minutes near the claw might result in the absorption of a few microsieverts of radiation, which is not enough to produce significant health outcomes in the short term. However, extended exposure increases the risk of developing cancer and other health issues.

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The Danger of Radioactive Dust

Credit: Pixabay

Apart from the direct radiation, another critical risk comes from the radioactive dust on the claw. Touching the claw could lead to radioactive particles adhering to clothing or skin, posing a continuous exposure risk even after leaving the area. This could result in serious health consequences over time.

Historical Context: The Elephant’s Foot and Other Hazards

chernobyl sign
Credit: Pixabay

The claw is not the only hazardous remnant in the Chernobyl exclusion zone. The infamous Elephant’s Foot, a mass of corium and other materials, remains one of the most dangerous objects on Earth. Similarly, the basement of Pripyat’s hospital still houses the radioactive clothing of firefighters who responded to the initial explosion, further emphasizing the persistent dangers within the zone.


Credit: Pixabay

The recent incident involving tourists at Chernobyl serves as a stark reminder of the enduring hazards within the exclusion zone. While the allure of such a historically significant site is understandable, the risks associated with exposure to high levels of radiation and radioactive dust are substantial. Visitors to the Chernobyl area must prioritize safety and adhere to strict guidelines to avoid serious health consequences.

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  1. Tourists pose for photo on one of ‘most radioactive items’ inside the Chernobyl exclusion zone.” Lad Bible. Joe Harker. June 19, 2024.