An digger claw which was abandoned in the Chernobyl exclusion zone is believed to be so radioactive that even a single touch could be deadly.
The machinery was left behind after it was used in nuclear clean-up efforts following the power plant disaster in 1986.
It was discarded in the forest outside Pripyat, the ghost city which was evacuated after the disaster, in the hope that no-one would come across it.
Nonetheless, some visitors to the exclusion zone have found the claw, including Australian archaeologist and Chernobyl specialist Rob Maxwell, who told News.com.au that the item is ‘highly radioactive and dangerous’.
Deadly claw: This piece of digger machinery was abandoned after the clean-up of Chernobyl and a radiation expert says touching it could be fatal
Measurement: A Geiger counter shows a reading of 679,000 counts per minute near a metal claw contaminated with radioactivity. The dose is very high inside the exclusion zone
Explaining what happened 33 years ago, Mr Maxwell said the digger claw had come into contact with extremely hazardous materials in the aftermath of the disaster.
Highly radioactive graphite and fuel rods had blown out of the reactor when it exploded, he said.
The dangerous materials had been scattered on nearby rooftops and the claw was used to clean them up.
‘This claw was deeply involved in all the intensely radioactive material as it moved the material back into the core,’ he told the publication.
‘There are many things in the zone today for which contact for any prolonged period will definitely kill you, and the Claw is definitely the most dangerous of all.
‘It’s essentially just sitting in a forest clearing for the rest of time. It’s severely, potently lethal.’
The reactor exploded in what was then the Soviet Union and is now Ukraine.
Left in the forest: The machinery was left behind after it was used in nuclear clean-up efforts following the power plant disaster in 1986
Abandoned: The digger claw was left behind near the ghost city of Pripyat in the hope that no-one would stumble upon it
Disaster: The ruined Chernobyl nuclear power plant in May 1986, weeks after the explosion whose radioactive effects are still felt today
Radiation expert Rob Maxwell (pictured) has done research in the exclusion zone
Mr Maxwell has carried out academic research on two trips to the exclusion zone, in 2010 and 2011.
When he found the claw he took a reading on a Geiger counter before quickly withdrawing.
He said there were a series of abandoned vehicles and robots in the area as authorities tried desperately to contain the nuclear catastrophe.
Soviet officials even used lunar rovers which had been designed at great expense to land on the Moon, he said.
Interest in Chernobyl has intensified this year after the success of HBO’s highly-acclaimed TV series on the disaster.
The popularity of the series has sparked a surge in visits to the exclusion zone and the ghost town of Pripyat.
Workers in protective clothing in Pripyat earlier this month where a new structure has been put in place to contain the radioactive remains of the power plant
The explosion took place early hours of of April 26, 1986 when an unexpected power surge caused a series of explosions which released radiation into the atmosphere more than 400 times more extreme than the Hiroshima atomic bomb.
The death toll from the explosion is widely disputed, but listed as 4,000 by the United Nations.
Up to 350,000 people were not evacuated from the surrounding areas for 36 hours after the initial explosion.
In addition, more than five million have lived in radiated land around the area in the 33 years since.
Around 116,000 people were permanently evacuated from the exclusion zone around the power plant, with villages and towns left to go to ruin.
Radiation levels in the region are still too high for humans to live in, but some wildlife has returned to the area.