Portsmouth academic in BBC documentary on Chernobyl’s post-human world

A wolf in the exclusion zone at Chernobyl. Credit Valeriy Yurko

A Portsmouth professor will feature in a BBC documentary on Chernobyl’s post-human landscape where wildlife has thrived after the world’s worst nuclear accident.

Professor Jim Smith, from the University’s School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, has been studying the aftermath of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster since 1990.

He has led teams of international researchers into the site’s 4,000 sq km exclusion zone – an area twice the size of London on the border of Ukraine and Belarus.

He was filmed by the BBC during a recent visit into the power plant’s reactor room as well as gathering soil samples at the nearby Red Forest, a radiation hotspot which was covered with radioactive material from the nuclear power plant.

Professor Jim Smith inside the reactor room. Pic credit: BBC News

While no humans live within the exclusion zone, wildlife is abundant, with brown bears, wolves, lynx and wild boar roaming freely among the abandoned buildings, farms and villages.

Now, parts of the exclusion zone may change for the first time in more than 30 years as research by Jim and other scientists has found much of it is safe for food to be grown and for the land to be developed. Most of the exclusion zone will be left as one of Europe’s biggest nature reserves, but scientists believe that large semi-abandoned areas are now safe for agriculture.

BBC News Our World: In the Shadow of Chernobyl will be broadcast on Saturday and Sunday, 16 and 17 February, at 9.30pm on the BBC News Channel, and afterwards on BBC iPlayer.

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