Researchers from the U.K.’s University of Bristol, working as part of the National Centre of Nuclear Robotics (NCNR) recently traveled to the Chernobyl exclusion zone where they harnessed drones to gain fresh insight into radiation levels at the stricken forest. This involved the first ever use of an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) to measure gammas and neutrons at the site, as well as the first use of a fixed-wing drone for Chernobyl radiation mapping
As a result of the survey, radioactive hotspots were found that were previously unknown to local authorities in Ukraine, according to the University of Bristol.
A cloud of radioactive particles from the disaster reached other parts of Europe, such as Sweden. The lingering effects of the disaster can still be felt around Chernobyl.
The drone survey identified an area just a few kilometers south of the forest as a radiation hotspot, according to the BBC. The area had been used to separate soil during the Chernobyl cleanup operation, the BBC reported.
File photo: Part of the Red Forest, which was formerly known as the Wormwood Forest.
Working with Ukrainian scientists, the U.K. researchers flew 50 drone sorties over a 10-day period, spending a total of 24 hours in the air, mapping a total of 5.8 square miles. The entire Chernobyl exclusion zone covers just over 1,000 square miles.
In 2017, scientists published a new theory on the Chernobyl disaster that could shed fresh light on the world’s worst nuclear accident.
In an article published in the journal Nuclear Technology, experts said that the first of two explosions reported by eyewitnesses was a nuclear, not a steam explosion, as is widely thought. Instead, the researchers believe that the first explosive event noted by eyewitnesses was a jet of debris ejected to an altitude of almost 2 miles by a series of nuclear explosions within the Chernobyl reactor. Some 2.7 seconds later, they say, a steam explosion ruptured the reactor and sent more debris into the atmosphere at lower altitudes.
File photo: The Red Forest is one of the most radioactive sites on Earth.
The safe confinement structure surrounding the sarcophagus built around the Chernobyl reactor.
Environmental group Greenpeace released a report in 2006 based on Belarus national cancer statistics, that predicted approximately 270,000 cancers and 93,000 fatal cancer cases were caused by Chernobyl. The total Chernobyl-related death count for Belarus, Russia and Ukraine could eventually reach 200,000, it said.
The Red Forest is close to the Chernobyl nuclear reactor site.
The site of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, however, is getting a new lease on life thanks to the installation of solar panels.