Nearly thirty years after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, Danny Cooke, along with a 60 Minutes crew, went to the Ukraine to cover the continuing efforts to contain the deadly radiation. Cooke brought a drone and captured this haunting footage of Pripyat, a ghost town close to the reactor, which mother nature is slowly reclaiming.
In his description of the video, Cooke writes:
Chernobyl is one of the most interesting and dangerous places I’ve been. The nuclear disaster, which happened in 1986 (the year after I was born), had an effect on so many people, including my family when we lived in Italy. The nuclear dust clouds swept westward towards us. The Italian police went round and threw away all the local produce and my mother rushed out to purchase as much tinned milk as possible to feed me, her infant son.
The 60 Minutes report was aired in late November, and showed the progress, or lack thereof, in a project to cover the reactor and seal in the radiation. For a war-torn country like the Ukraine, undertaking such a project isn’t easy. Engineers are finding themselves $770 million short and battered by repeated delays.
In 1986, Soviet helicopter pilots like Anatoly Grishchenko were a crucial part of the initial containment efforts. Pilots would bravely fly over the power plant and dump sand or concrete into the failed reactor.
To mitigate the danger of radiation poisoning, the aviators were given special suits and their aircraft was fitted with lead shielding. But, as the LA Times says in their obituary of Grishchenko, this was not enough to keep pilots safe. Grishchenko died in 1990 of leukemia, four years after the Chernobyl disaster.
When the Fukushima nuclear disaster happened in 2011, unmanned aircraft were used to help people avoid dangerous areas. The BBC reported on one team from the University of Bristol that used drones to map radiation levels around the failed nuclear power plant.
There is another drone video, similar to Cooke’s, that shows an abandoned town near Fukushima.