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An Archaeologist Exploring Chernobyl Risked His Life When He Got Too Close To A Deadly Crane Claw

April 26, 1986

In the early morning hours of April 26, 1986, the team in charge of reactor four at Chernobyl’s power plant was preparing to perform a scheduled test. It was up to them to measure the functionality of the turbines if the main power was ever cut. They needed to know if cold water would continue to be pumped into the reactor in the event of a power outage. To prepare for the test, the staff gradually reduced the amount of power going to the reactor. By evening, it was at around 50 percent. The operators had no idea that they were in danger, and they continued with the test.

Serious Problems

The rising temperature caused the pressurized fuel tubes to break, and the fuel particles started to leak. When they came into contact with the hot water, combustion was created by the steam. There were two explosions at Chernobyl on April 26, 1986. During the second explosion, chunks of graphite were flung from the reactor and then caught fire. The high levels of radiation in the area came from the fires that raged on for over a week.

13 Days Later

The authorities decided to evacuate the residents from the surrounding towns, but they waited 13 days to do so. Also, not everyone was evacuated. The Soviet Union brought people in to handle the cleanup. The government even sent in firefighters to stop the blaze, which was also a huge mistake. More than 28 people died from exposure to radiation. Before sending in the people, the Soviets tried to clean up the debris using robotic equipment. The government tried to cover up the severity of the issue, and they didn’t want West Germany to know how much debris and radiation the explosion had caused.

The Joker

One of the most well-known robots used was called Joker. Before they could use it to clean the debris, officials sent a couple of men to the roof of a nearby reactor to shift the waste, creating a clear path so Joker could travel. The men who were cleaning the path had no idea that their efforts would be for nothing. As soon as Joker got to the task of cleaning up the debris, it couldn’t handle the amount of radiation that it was subjected to, and it ceased to function. There was 600 to 700 percent more radiation than the machine could handle.

Human Cleanup

While government officials were struggling to come up with a solution, the United States had the technology to withstand high doses of radiation. Unfortunately, because the Cold War was going on, the Soviets didn’t want to reach out to the U.S. for help. Instead, they decided to send humans in to handle the job. Thousands of men were suited and booted to head up onto the radioactive roof. The men had just 90 seconds to do their best to clean up the roof. They were only given 90 seconds because they needed to prevent long periods of exposure to the high levels of radiation. The objective was for the men to remove over 100-tons of graphite from the roof, onto the ground.

No True Numbers

There is no record of how many of the men died while trying to clean the roof of the reactor. There is also no record of how many of the men fell ill and died due to radiation exposure. They also had no idea how long the men who became sick lived after the sickness set it. The one thing that there is an official record of is the status of the Joker.

The Claw

Today, the German robot still lies abandoned somewhere in Chernobyl. This isn’t a strange sight in the area, because there are plenty of decaying pieces of machinery that was used to clean the debris, including the infamous claw. The claw, like the Joker, played an essential role after the explosion. It was used to clean the radioactive graphite, which makes it one of the most deadly pieces of machinery in the area today.

Robert Maxwell

In 2019, an archaeologist named Robert Maxwell explained why the claw became so deadly. He said that the three rooftops near the exploded reactor 4 were the most lethal places on Earth. He says that one of the roofs measured tens of thousands of roentgen, which was how radioactivity was measured back then. He says that as the claw moved the material back into the core, that it moved material back into the core. To say that the claw was radioactive and highly dangerous was an understatement. Robert says that getting too close to it could be deadly.

The Investigation

Robert, like many archaeologists, had a morbid curiosity, and he felt that he had to see the claw for himself. He wanted to take a reading of the amount of radiation being emitted from the machine 33 years after the explosion. He had to explore with a guide, who told Robert not to touch it. Robert says that his Geiger counter was climbing so fast, it was difficult to read. Finally, he got a reading. The crane claw was emitting 650 uSv, which is unheard of.

The Most Dangerous Of All

Robert says that there are plenty of deadly items left in Chernobyl, but the claw is the most dangerous of all. Finding the claw wasn’t easy because the men were told to hide the machinery in the woods. When Robert found it, he and his guide knew that they had to take photos. Robert compares the claw to a mythical creature that most people will never see, and many don’t believe exist. An archaeologist exploring Chernobyl risked his life when he got too close to a deadly crane claw, and warns the public to stay far away. It is too contaminated to be relocated, and it poses a danger to any living thing that comes in contact with it.

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