Inside Chernobyl with Ben Fogle (2021) Movie Script

When the Chernobyl Nuclear
Reactor exploded in 1986,
it changed Everything.
I was 13 years old
and it was just when I was
starting to understand the
And Chernobyl for me
was such a massive
punctuation mark.
Now, 35 years after the
I'm travelling to the most
radioactive place on Earth.
This is the accident
and emergency department.
Imagine the horrors
that went on in here.
I've been granted special
to explore some of Chernobyl's
Some people believe this was a
mind controller, like a brain
..going inside the very control
room where the fatal mistake
was made...
Goodness me.
I mean, this is unbelievable.
..and seeing close-up
the tomb of the doomed reactor.
Wow. I can't quite believe
I'm actually in here.
What has Chernobyl now become?
Oh, look.
So, someone's been staying in
This is the Chernobyl squatter.
And what does it mean
for the generations to come?
I see this as a very timely
Because the world
is at tipping point.
I'm hoping that by visiting
this place, the people,
maybe I'll find some hope
that all is not lost.
I'm on my way to the scene of
the world's worst nuclear
So, this road doesn't lead
anywhere but into the
Restricted Zone now?
We call it simply The Zone.
The Zone, yes.
Where I'm going, I have to be
by a government sanctioned
Nikolai Fomin has in-depth
knowledge of the risks.
So this is the checkpoint?
Still pretty highly
militarised area so please
prepare your documents.
Beyond this border crossing is
the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone,
a region so contaminated
it was closed off from the rest
of the world for over a decade.
It feels quite strange.
It's heavily militarised,
there's load of police
and it's heavily controlled
in terms of who can go in
and even who can go out.
From now on, the law dictates
that the increased radiation
I'm about to experience
must be continually monitored.
I've got the meter for you.
The dosimeter.Yeah.
This is the device that
measures your total radiation
your dose. So this I have to
wear around my neck? Yes.
And this is the Geiger counter.
These units measure
radiation level.
It's never zero, right? So
there is always a little bit
of background
radiation all over the world.
So right now we are measuring
0.13 microsieverts per hour.
If radiation levels exceed
normal reading, it will go
It will start flashing red,
it will start beeping
so you'll never miss that.
OK, we're good to go.
Two worlds. I'm about to
step over the threshold.
I'll be spending a week living
inside the Exclusion Zone,
which covers an area of more
than 1,000 square miles -
larger than Luxembourg.
The Zone was established
in the aftermath of the worst
nuclear disaster in history.
On April 26th 1986,
Chernobyl's reactor No 4
The resulting fire lasted ten
days, releasing 400 times as
radioactive material as the
atom bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
The entire civilian population
in the surrounding towns
and villages was forcibly
later told never to return.
Are these radiation signs?
Yes, they are.
Stay away from the warning
and from now on
don't touch anything.
I'll be going inside the
stricken power plant itself,
but first I want to visit
the ghost of Chernobyl.
We're in the city now.
Yes, we're in Pripyat.
In front of us
is main street of Pripyat.
This is the main street?
This is the main street.
So, everything, all these
trees, this has all grown
since it was abandoned?Yeah.
Pripyat was still being
constructed when its 48,000
residents all left.
It was designed to be the model
socialist city, a Soviet
Never really seen anything like
I've Been to war zones, I've
seen places that have, you
experienced great upheaval and
changes but never quite like
I'm imagining mums and their
pushchairs and children
You know, a bustling place.
And now look at it.
I was expecting to see a few
derelict buildings but not
This is not even a town.
This is an entire city,
with five secondary schools,
two sports stadiums
and its own Palace of Culture,
all left to ruin
and consumed by nature.
That's incredible, I'm on a
multistorey school building
and there's trees
growing through the floor.
I do feel like
I've gone back in time.
To me, that looks like sort of
dosimetry to test for
The great irony is that
everyone here was preparing for
a nuclear catastrophe
that came from the other side
of the Atlantic that would
come in the form of a bomb, not
in the form of their own power
Iconic, poignant.
It's kind of everything, this.
Cos this was the theme park
that never was.
The abandoned city of Pripyat
is unlike anywhere I've ever
Life changed here forever
a day after the world's
worst nuclear disaster.
By all accounts Pripyat had
been a happy, thriving city,
full of the hopes and dreams
of a young population.
The average age was 26.
It was built just 3km
from the Chernobyl Power Plant
for workers and their families,
with brand-new facilities to
rival the West.
Back in 1986 this was
state of the art in the USSR.
This was unheard of cos
Pripyat, this was a model town,
a model city.
I suppose the comparison in the
United Kingdom is Milton
You know, this was built for
purpose and the living
standards here
were far better than anywhere
else in the Soviet Union.
It makes me smile more in here
than other places,
with an air sadness as well
cos there would have been so
many happy times that people
had in here.
The Chernobyl No 4 reactor
exploded in the early hours
of April 26th, 1986.
When Pripyat awoke,
toxic levels of radiation were
already engulfing the area.
But no warning was given.
People continued their lives as
Alexander Sirota was a
nine-year-old schoolboy at the
So, what are your memories
from the 26th of April 1986?
So this is the school here?
Right through here?Yes.
This is You?Yes.
This is poignant.
Alexander was sent back to
despite the fact that radiation
levels in the city
had reached alarming levels.
Incredibly, the Soviet
waited 36 hours before
starting an evacuation.
Can I ask if you or your family
suffered long-term
health implications?
I-I really can't even imagine
what he went through.
That 36 hour delay,
so much is made about that.
Without doubt,
that cost people their health
and probably their lives.
The Soviet Union did not want
to admit, it was embarrassing,
it wasn't... It wasn't Soviet.
You know, a reactor couldn't
explode, there was disbelief
but there was also denial
and denial cost lives.
By the afternoon, confusion had
descended on Pripyat.
No official information
was being provided
other than a small fire
on the roof of the power plant.
But there was one place in the
city that had already been a
to the terrifying events
that were unfolding.
Oh, hello, we've got company.
In my mind this is one of the
most significant buildings,
in Pripyat cos this is
the hospital, Hospital 126.
Everyone who went to the plant
that night to fight the little
on the roof that we now know
was this...
..this world-shattering
..would have been taken
in this door.
Remember to just not touch
stuff, yeah.
In the hours after the
explosion, 108 firefighters and
plant workers,
suffering from acute radiation
were taken through these
This is the accident
and emergency department.
I'm trying to imagine the chaos
and but also the unknown,
No-one really knew why all
these firefighters were coming
and why they were vomiting.
The contamination they left
is still a danger today.
That's the reason I've got a
mask on right now, all those
dust particles.
Don't really want those
going into my nose and mouth.
Cos this is one of the most
radioactive parts of Pripyat.
All the first responders
were heavily radioactive
from fighting those fires.
Anyone exposed to radiation at
the power plant should have
been washed
and dressed in uncontaminated
clothing before they arrived
That never happen.
This is kind of strange.
There are still the rags that
the nurses were using on the
If I use my dosimeter that is
picking up beta...
It's already gone
the highest it's been.
The reading is 60 times higher
than the average background
radiation just outside The
I'm not going to spend
very long in here.
I'm obviously being very
But it's the invisibility of
the radiation that they would
have had
as well, they wouldn't have had
a clue. They didn't have these.
These were just firemen
who had burns
and unknown symptoms
that caused vomiting.
28 people brought to this
hospital after the explosion
lost their lives
within three months.
It's unclear how many would
later suffer ill health as a
of their exposure to radiation
that night.
I think of all the buildings
I've been into in Pripyat,
this is...the most chilling,
most haunting.
Imagine the horrors
that went on in here,
the number of lives that were
cos this was a town
of 48,000 people.
In fact, they called it a city.
So there would have been many,
many pregnant women, lots of
And just 36 hours after the
this, along with the whole
city, was evacuated.
A whole working hospital, gone.
Look at it now.
I've been told that beneath
this pile of rather
innocent-looking sand
is the entrance to the
one of the most toxic parts
of the whole Chernobyl.
All of the uniforms from the
first responders, the
firefighters -
so their boots, their tunics
their hats - was taken down
into the basement where it was
because they were so toxic,
so radioactive,
they couldn't let anyone go
near it.
The basement was only sealed a
few years ago to stop
intent on venturing into one of
Chernobyl's deadliest sites.
Nikolai wants to show me
some footage
of what's actually down there.
This is the basement of the
hospital before it was buried.
Levels of radiation there
are insanely high.
72... 700. 720... That's off
the scale now, you see.
And that's a pair
of fireman's boots.
The main risk is not even the
dose of radiation you obtained
it's dust. All those tiny
partials of radioactive
if you ingest any of those,
even the microscopic ones you
cannot see,
they are capable
of killing human beings.
Are these authorised
No, I'm pretty sure
they are trespassers.
Cos it's strictly
forbidden to go there.
Although in recent years
authorities have allowed some
very strictly controlled tours
inside the wider Zone area...
..illegal thrill-seekers,
driven largely by social media,
continue to be a problem here.
I think these guys are doing it
for adrenaline, attention...
Showing off. media, showing off.
That's what drives people to
take the risk and go down
What about the firemen's
helmets, are they down there?
There was one helmet that
somebody took from the basement
and put on the ground floor of
the hospital building in
That was in front of
the main entrance for years.
Now it's gone. Somebody took
So somewhere out there is a
highly radioactive fireman's
Yeah, and I hope
that's within The Zone.
I really hope
they didn't take it out
because that's
the worst case scenario.
Cos if you take something
radioactive from here,
it can cause a lot of trouble.
Radiation has no taste, it's
invisible, you can't see it,
you can't smell it.
The levels of radiation in the
uniforms are a sobering
of just how toxic some parts
of The Zone still are.
Scientists predict the
Chernobyl reactor site will be
for at least 20,000 years.
Containing the disaster is
Almost 3,000 people still
work at the power plant.
No-one can stay within
10km of the site
and for some workers
this is a way of life.
So you do this everyday,
basically, when you go into the
Control Zone.
This just analyses what I've
got on me, if I'm contaminated
or not.
That says I'm clean.
It's good news.
I'm spending my first night at
one of the few lodgings in The
Yes, of course.
OK. Over here?
my dose of radiation,
I'm only allowed to stay in The
Zone for up to 14 days at a
It's actually a lot more
comfortable than I thought this
was going to be.
But it is very weird that I am
just a few of kilometres
from the Chernobyl
that I remember melting down
when I was a 13-year-old. And
here I am, about to have my
first night.
And I've even got a memory of
home. That's nice.
I've been advised that boots
should maybe be left outside
just because they've been
touching dirt and dust that
might be
a little bit more radioactive
than anything else.
So these need to be left
The invisible threat of
radiation is ever present in
The Zone.
Tomorrow, I'm going to the very
heart of where it all started.
The Chernobyl Exclusion Zone is
a strange and unsettling place,
filled with haunting human
stories of a paradise lost.
I want to get closer to the
events that actually unfolded
in the early hours of April
26th 1986,
and so that can only lead me
to one place.
The Chernobyl Nuclear Power
Plant itself.
This, back in 1986,
was ground zero.
When the roof blew off
that was one of the things
that we were most fearful of.
Thousands of miles away in the
UK, I remember being terrified
of it.
What happens if that reached
Now I'm here.
I'm...going to go in there.
How mad is that?
An enormous steel arch now
shields the highly radioactive
of Chernobyl's doomed
No 4 reactor unit.
I've been given permission to
go inside the actual control
where the disaster unfolded,
which for decades has been
completely off limits.
I'm heading into the inner
workings of Chernobyl.
So, you have to make sure there
is nothing that can be
so the only thing that I'm
wearing of my own is my pants.
They may need to be changed
after this.
Are we ready?I think so.
From now on we have to move
The power plant is vast
and my permitted dose of
radiation strictly controlled.
This is pretty extraordinary,
this, to... given access into the
workings of Chernobyl.
Pretty amazing.
Lots of activity here, there's
lots of people working here,
obviously, ensuring that it's
Wow, it's endless.
The 800-metre so-called
golden corridor
links what remains of
Chernobyl's reactor 4
to its three other reactors,
which were largely undamaged
in the explosion.
So that says Control Room 1?
Yes.So that's in there.
I'll only have a very limited
and restricted time
inside the heavily contaminated
shell of Control Room 4.
So, engineer Valerii Kulishenko
first takes me to see
what it WOULD have looked like.
Feels like going back in time
now. So, this is the control
of reactor No 3,
the sister reactor
to the one that exploded.
On the night of the accident,
up the corridor
in Control Room Number 4,
engineers were carrying out
complex reactor tests
that were spiralling out of
As an exact mirror to
Control Room Number 4,
this was the button
that doomed Chernobyl.
This unprecedented
chain of events had begun,
and the final decision was made
to shut it down.
The button was turned...
..and that was it. Disaster.
The shutdown triggered
a massive power surge.
Oh, my goodness.
The core overheated and,
seconds later, the first
followed soon after by a
This is truly extraordinary.
I am standing on
reactor No 3.
So, each of these is a fuel
1,661 to be exact.
This is an exact mirror
of reactor No 4.
This blew right through the
ceiling. Everything came off.
This is what people thought
was impossible.
But what you must remember
is we're talking 1986.
That was when nuclear energy
was in its infancy, it was
from weapon to source of power
and the USSR were producing
these power stations
faster than anyone else,
but they were also cutting
These reactors weren't designed
with a concrete and steel dome
to contain the radiation.
Two engineers were killed
instantly in the explosion
while the night shift in
Control Room Number 4
were exposed to lethal levels
of radiation.
So, there's a little hatch
It looks like I'm going to be
given another dosimeter.
Kind of shows that I'm now
heading into a more vulnerable
of Chernobyl. There's much
higher radiation where we're
going now.
I'm now heading into the heart
of the Chernobyl story...
Through here?
..where many of the decisions
and actions that led to the
played out.
So, this door goes into
Control Room Number 4?
I mean, this is pretty
extraordinary because beyond
this door
is a control room
that changed the world.
I mean, this is unbelievable.
Goodness me.
I don't have long to take it
Five minutes to absorb all of
this. Wow.
In terms of places of
historical significance this is
right up there
because, arguably,
this was the location
of the world's greatest
Oh, my goodness.
It's a time capsule.
Lots of things have been
removed. Where are they?
Stolen over the years.
It's hard to even imagine
the terrifying events
that took place here.
The panic, the fear, the
horrific effects of radiation.
The reading is pretty high in
here. It's about as high
as I've seen during my whole
time around Chernobyl.
But what a profound,
extraordinary, moving place.
I mean, look at this.
Soviet authorities blamed the
disaster on an inexperienced
night shift failing to follow
safety protocols.
But was it human error,
flaws in the design
or was the Soviet nuclear
programme's technology
just unstable?
Time, we have to go.
Then my time was up.
OK, we gotta go.
I doubt I'll ever come back
into here but, wow, what an
It's a reminder,
I suppose, of our mortality.
I'll be returning to the power
plant later in my journey
to see something perhaps even
more extraordinary -
the tomb of the doomed reactor,
deeper inside the huge steal
There are very few people
who witnessed first-hand
the events of that night
and lived to tell their story.
I'm returning to the ghost town
of Pripyat
to meet one person that did...
So, this is the police station?
..a former policeman
called Alexey Moskalenko.
Alexey was a 29-year-old
officer with a young family
when the disaster happened.
Incredibly, he was on patrol
directly outside the power
when reactor 4 exploded.
Despite his injuries, long
after his own family had been
Alexey stayed on in Pripyat
to police the enormous,
life-threatening clean-up
Where are we going now?
So this, this is the claw?
Apparently, this grappling claw
was attached to a crane
and used to handle large chunks
of ultra-radioactive graphite
ejected by the explosion.
Does that not mean that this is
highly radioactive?
OK. I don't want you to overdo
That was as high as I've seen
Toxic debris was scattered
all over the roof of reactor 3,
spewing out lethal doses
of radiation.
Attempts to use robots
to clear the area failed
so another method was needed.
The army of people drafted in
for the deadly task
became known as the
Every shovel they used
and every item of makeshift
protective clothing they wore
had to be safely disposed of
after each potentially fatal
Thousands of liquidators
are thought to have died
as a result of exposure
to radiation.
Do you think people sacrificed
their lives because they had to
or did they do it for their
Did you...
Did you sacrifice your health?
You were given five years.
It's just incredible,
I mean, to meet someone who not
only experienced it first-hand
but came back, was given
five years to live.
I-I really can't even imagine
what he went through.
It was just a duty of humanity.
So, what he did with arguably
for all of us, really,
to help contain it and that's
what the liquidator's did
and they are the unsung heroes
of this whole sorry story.
Cleared by the liquidators
as best they could,
deep in the Chernobyl Exclusion
it's still referred to
as a toxic dead zone.
But just how true is that?
Tomorrow I'm going somewhere
that might well turn
everything on its head.
Could people actually
still be living here?
My Exclusion Zone lodgings are
in the tiny town of Chernobyl,
after which the power plant
itself was named.
Still inside The Zone, it was
also evacuated but, being 14km
didn't suffer the total
abandonment seen in Pripyat.
It has a very strange feel
It feels like we're the only
people here.
Showing me around
is Kate Goncharenko,
whose father and grandparents
were forcibly relocated
after the accident.
This looks like it's a working
building over here.
Yeah, yeah, exactly. This is
the post office, of Chernobyl
And, generally, the one post
office for the whole area.
And above the window
you can see the screen.
Usually, when we see such a
screen in a post office, we
expect to see
the time there but as long as
we're in the Exclusion Zone
we see the level of radiation
in the different parts
of the Exclusion Zone.
That's kind of mad.
So, basically, what my little
dosimeter is doing here...Yeah.
..that's telling me every
single part and region
of the entire Exclusion Zone.
Exactly, you're getting it
No-one is allowed to stay here
for more than two weeks at a
but there is a local shop.
This is a proper supermarket.
You've got everything you can
need - knives, biscuits, a lot
of alcohol.
Do you just come here
for two weeks at a time?
How do you feel working here?
I think I'm going to get myself
a little something sweet.
Do you fancy anything, Kate?
I guess one of this.Yeah.Yeah.
I love that she's using an
abacus. Yeah.
Like stepping back in time.
26.Thank you.
Thank you so much, bye-bye.
It's against the law
to live inside The Zone
but Kate is taking me to the
crumbling outskirts of
to meet one woman who is
defying the authorities.
Look at all these derelict
houses here.
This is the house of Valentina,
one of the re-settlers,
the people who came back and
continued living in their
Let's go.
Oh, look she's got a cat.Yeah.
I didn't really that there were
re-settlers, as in people
who moved back here
Still feels like this is
a dead zone.
You know, the fact that I'm
walking around with this,
monitoring the amount of
radioactivity that I'm
but Valentina lives here.
It's kind of quite a lot to
get your head around.
Shall we?Yes.
Thank you very much for letting
me come into your house.
Valentina moved back to The
Zone soon after the disaster.
Her late husband found work
here as a liquidator.
Hello, little dog.
Who ate all the pies?
Valentina, what is your dog
Dana. I can't quite work it
It's like a Chihuahua-Corgi
There's lots of bottles of
water. Do you drink from the
Valentina does have electricity
and friends bring food in from
but it's a humble existence.
So, Valentina, why did you
to return to a place so close
to Chernobyl Power Station?
Does it ever feel sad here
or lonely here?
Will you ever leave here?
Around 200 re-settlers
still live in The Zone,
one of the most toxic places
on Earth.
Already they've lived longer
on average
than those who never returned.
She also offers us some vodka.
When in Ukraine, I feel
I must take a bit of vodka.
These labels look a little
bit scary.
Isn't that for electricity?
Electricity, yeah.
VOICEOVER: I think Valentina is
keen to show me that there can
a kind of normality here.
Is this Ukrainian hospitality?
My goodness. That's quite a
lot. Is she trying to get me
Exactly. Thank you very much.
How do we say cheers in
Budmo.Budmo. OK.
Wow. You should eat something.
Oh, should I eat something as
Yeah.I think I need to.
That was quite strong.
Thank you.
Valentina has one more
treat for me...
Is this the entertainment?
..ably assisted by Dana.
Valentina, that...
That... I will never forget
Take Care. Thank you.
That was kind of amazing.
So much love and humour
and humanity and normalness.
And then this, which is kind of
what people expect to see in
Chernobyl -
abandonment and derelict
It's kind of a tale
of two worlds, isn't it?
And it's just completely
unexpected, that.
Because that's such a sign
of kind of hope and beauty
amidst such wretchedness. Kind
of flips it all on its head.
Self-settlers like Valentina
show that life can still exist
but I'm learning of a newer
generation who also want to
to this strange place.
This evening I'm returning
to the ghost town of Pripyat.
No-one can enter here
without a government permit.
But not everyone heeds the
What I've slowly realised
being here is that
although it is a deserted city,
stuff still happens here,
and police patrols
are one of the realities
because a deserted city
attracts people for the wrong
And I'm curious to find out
what sort of people do come
here and why.
Ukrainian police carry out
24-hour surveillance of
Officer Mykhailo Kuzmenko and
his team are on the night
What kind of things
do people get up to here?
The illegal trespassers
are known as stalkers.
They operate in groups,
creating makeshift living
quarters inside buildings...
..and even sleeping there.
Stalkers seek out the most
dangerous and inaccessible
places... get their thrills.
The dangers are clearly
Tonight, Mykhailo's team
believe some have been staying
a high-rise on the outskirts
of the city.
Going in.
This is so strange.
Kind of going from apartment to
apartment...looking for people.
People have been graffitiing
They're pretty certain
that there is someone around.
There's fresh footprints,
fresh signs of people being
So someone's been staying in
This is the Chernobyl squatter.
Who'd have thought?
It's a side to Chernobyl
I never even considered,
that people would be attracted
here for the thrill of staying
I mean, pretty astonishing
views. I'm drawn to the window.
There's a little sledge there.
Very easy to face of the facts
that it was once
a thriving block of flats.
Oh, yeah, look.
So this is pretty strange. I
can't quite make heads nor
I don't think any books or
anything were left in this
everything was kind of taken,
so it's almost like they've
this little thing. It's got the
original Soviet flag,
it's got a map of Pripyat.
This is the social media
It's even reached Chernobyl.
Because people want to come
here, they want to make videos,
they want to show off, they
want to, erm, create dangerous
and, actually, this is sort of
their playground.
That's a post-disaster effect
The problem is so widespread,
it's common for the police to
at least one stalker
on every patrol.
If they get caught,
do they get arrested?
Darkness has set in and it has
a whole different feel now.
It's getting late,
and with no arrests tonight,
the police head off to patrol
other parts of The Zone.
I think it's fair to say
that's the strangest,
most surreal night patrol
I've ever been on.
It's just a whole other face
to Chernobyl.
The stalkers might have eluded
us tonight,
but we have another plan
to track them down.
Nikolai, my minder,
reckons that tomorrow morning
we'll definitely snare us
our stalker.
I'm spending a week inside
the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone,
a toxic wasteland
that I've discovered is now
a major attraction for illegal
sightseers and thrill-seekers.
I want to understand why these
so-called stalkers come here
and what Chernobyl means to the
generation who weren't around
at the time of the accident.
Nikolai has managed to track
down a stalker through social
and he's willing to talk to me.
He's there. Down here
somewhere? Yes, on his way back
from The Zone.
Stalkers enter The Zone
so we're meeting
just outside the border.
Apparently they're on their way
back from Pripyat
so they well might have been
there when I was there.
Hey, he's over there. Hey.
No, no, we're good.OK.
How long were you in Pripyat
for? Four days. Four days?
And when you're in Pripyat,
where where do you stay?
In my apartment. Your...? Yes,
I can show you my videos from
This is my house, where we
Good morning.
How did you get in?
Illegally way.
From the perimeter fence,
it's around 30km to Pripyat.
The Zone is a vast wilderness.
To avoid the police, stalkers
must trek through toxic forests
and cross ice-cold rivers.
So, crossing the river in your
pants, it's got to be cold.
The water was this deep.
With this backpack, I turn in
my hands, and go across this
You don't understand how it's
Why do you do it?For me it is
just like a new adventure
and every time it is very
For example,
I find police and run away.
Second time I meet many
stalkers also illegally.
It's like adventure
and shock for me.
Reaching Pripyat is
the stalker's Holy Grail...
..a place where they can share
their extreme thrill-seeking
on social media.
The dangers of this illegal
trespass are clear.
That must be scary up there.
Wow. Look at that.
Do you not worry about
I know where it's dangerous
and it's, like four days
radiation not kill you, so why
See you.
Fascinating, that.
Here, I suppose, is in modern
Ukrainian youth who's embracing
2020, 2021, and social media
and making videos
and keeping stories alive.
It's a form of history telling,
isn't it? Really.
It's the new world
meeting the old world.
It's kind of cool
and weird and...unexpected.
I'm back inside The Zone.
Its size still astounds me.
1,000 square miles of crumbling
villages, toxic forests
and abandoned farmland.
But when the eyes of the world
turned to Chernobyl
they found far more here than
just a ruined nuclear plant.
In a remote part of The Zone,
Nikolai has special knowledge
of something that was once
classified at the highest
We are off to see something
secret, remains of the Cold
It's truly amazing.
I'm going to a site that, at
the time of the Chernobyl
was marked on Soviet maps
as a children's camp.
It had quite a climbing frame.
You guys don't do things by
This is an amazing feat
of Soviet engineering.
The scale of this place.
I feel dwarfed by it.
It's like a 50-storey building.
So what exactly is this?
During the Cold War, this was
able to detect incoming
in case of a nuclear strike.
Purpose of this was to give
a seven-minute warning
to the Soviet authorities.
And this was a technology
available only in Soviet
So Americans didn't have
anything like this.
The huge radar receiver
was built around the same time
as the power plant,
helping to conceal from the
Americans the 14,000 tonnes of
that needed to be brought
on site for its construction.
It stands 150 metres high
and nearly a kilometre wide.
So how did this actually work?
Radio waves?
Yes, and the radio geeks in
the '80s, with their radio
could hear a sound
of the radar station.
Some people were calling it
a Russian woodpecker
because it sounded
a bit like woodpecker
and it was clearly
coming from Russia,
so that's why Russian
If you were picking that up, if
you were a ham radio operator
in America, I can see how you'd
start thinking, "What is this?"
Did the Americans know about
this? When did they first see
After the meltdown.
When all the spy satellites
had turned their eyes here,
they suddenly discovered
this massive frame
in the middle of nowhere.
That was quite a surprise.
Because of its size and weird
look there are many conspiracy
so some people believe that
this was a mind controller,
like a brain scorcher of the
Soviet Union that was operating
radio waves to control
and change human behaviour.
I'm trying to imagine the
people who thought it could
control your mind.
I feel I need a vodka now. You
do. Has it affected me?
We're 100% sure
it's not operating now
and we can sleep tight tonight.
We are not zombies yet.
The radar network is another
example of the Soviets
looking the wrong way.
While they scanned the horizon
for the incoming threat,
it was actually the failure of
their own nuclear technology
that ultimately led to
the disaster they all feared.
Now, there's just one
truly extraordinary place
I'm yet to visit.
Somewhere that very few will
ever get the opportunity to
Tomorrow I'm going directly
beneath the vast Chernobyl
Radiation Shield,
getting as close as is possible
to get to the very epicentre
of the explosion.
I'm returning to the Chernobyl
Power Plant to gain access
to something off limits
to almost all outsiders.
Deep inside the enormous steel
known as the New Safe
Confinement, is the entombed
of the ruined reactor itself,
the very epicentre of the
After months of discussions
I've been granted
just a few minutes inside.
This is pretty special to be
allowed to go into there.
That's why there's lots of
people keeping an eye on me,
lots of paperwork, it's taken a
long time to get these
Directly underneath the arch,
radiation levels are even
higher than Control Room Number
It's kind of like going to war.
I think we're about to head
into the final area.
Wow. Oh, my goodness.
This... This is unbelievable.
I mean, I can't...
I can't quite believe
I'm actually in here.
Behind the scaffold is the
crumbling concrete sarcophagus
that was hastily erected to
entomb the blown apart reactor.
If you can hear that beeping,
that was everyone's dosimeters
from outside going off,
cos it's off the scale in here.
We're up to 85, almost 90.
Over time and exposed to the
elements, the concrete
has deteriorated
and is teetering on collapse.
The entire structure will be
painstakingly disassembled,
its still hot
radioactive core removed
and placed in special storage
So when the workers eventually
start to dismantle this,
how long can each worker
spend doing their job?
It will all be robotics?Yeah.
Very slowly everything will be
picked apart.
This is modern day liquidators.
This is history repeating
All those men that were
sweeping the debris off the
it's going to happen again.
Spearheaded by the European
Bank for Reconstruction and
over 40 countries came together
to fund the 1.3 billion arch.
For at least the next century,
this extraordinary feat of
mega engineering will protect
and enable the radioactive
ruins of reactor 4
to eventually be made safe.
Trying to explain to you now
my emotions, it's really weird,
because I feel
surprisingly emotional
to see what is arguably
a wretched, terrible place.
But what I see
coming in here is hope
and that's what I love cos this
is the hope of what technology
can do.
This is the hope of what people
collaborating, multi nations
together to create this dome
and protect it for another 100
and isn't that incredible that
over the next couple of
decades, robots,
you know, AI, artificial
intelligence, that so many
think could ruin the world,
could actually help save it
and preserve it.
So my emotions right now are of
great pride for this country,
for everyone who worked on it
and showing what humanity can
Got about 30 seconds left in
You can hear everyone's
dosimeters going off.
Whoo, gosh.
Chris, we have to get out.
Chris, we've gotta go.Yeah.
Our time is up.
Everything is checked for
contamination but we're all
The Chernobyl Exclusion Zone is
still a long way from being a
habitable environment but
slowly green shoots are
The wider Zone itself has
become a giant laboratory
where scientists and
conservationists can now
safely study the effects
of radiation and what happens
to nature when humans
What is this we're going into
Biologist Marina Shkvyria has
been studying wildlife in The
So, all of this here has grown
since this was all abandoned?
What's interesting is
when I look at my dosimeter,
it's a little bit higher in
here, perhaps, and I know that
if I go down towards the moss,
it goes up quite a lot and yet
nature has flourished here.
Marina and other scientists
believe that without hunting,
farming and the destruction
of natural habitats,
The Zone is becoming
an unlikely wildlife sanctuary.
We're tracking wolves.
Have you found anything,
Yeah. You can see tracks, yeah?
This one?Oh, yes, I've got it.
How many wolves do you think
have come through here?
There are plenty of wolf tracks
but in an area the size of
seeing them was always going to
be a long shot.
Luckily, Marina and her team
have caught glimpses of the
that live in The Zone
on remote cameras.
So, this is from a drone?
That's a beautiful shot.
Wow, look at that,
galloping off across the
How beautiful is that?
Marina, how did these horses
get here in the first place?
Were they introduced?
And wolves!
Look at that. Incredible.
Just amazing to see the array
of animals on those camera
Moose, deer, wolves, lynx.
There's even bears.
So many animals living in this
extraordinary Exclusion Zone.
The planet faces
unprecedented challenges -
many of them, like Chernobyl,
of our own making.
I came here looking for hope.
What I've discovered here
in Chernobyl is that this is
supposed to be a radioactive
wasteland for tens,
maybe hundreds
of thousands of years...
..and yet nature's reclaiming
I mean, look at this.
This, for me, is really
exciting part of the Chernobyl
cos it's the accidental hope
that came from it.
Some people are calling this
the European Amazon.
This is almost the greatest,
accidental rewilding project
in the world because where
there was wretchedness and
has come this extraordinary
return to the wild.