In the two previous article, we talked about the strange events that occurred and the catastrophic mistakes that led to the explosion of the nuclear reactor at the Chernobyl station. After that, we talked about the tremendous efforts that were made to contain this disaster, which could have worsened and become a global disaster. In addition, we talked about heroic stories, political circumstances and their role in the events. However in this post, we will talk about the current situation of Chernobyl, and why it is still considered a very dangerous place. In fact, it may be the most dangerous place on earth, especially the room located inside the fourth nuclear reactor!
As we said before, when the core of the reactor exploded, and after it was buried with sand, it turned into a very hot lava mass and continued to penetrate the earth and the cement underneath. This lava kept flowing until it reached the reactor basement. it became a mixture of nuclear fuel, control rods, sand and cement. This mixture continued to cool gradually over time until it formed into a strange shape that became known as ‘’The Elephant’s Foot’’. And it was named this way because it actually looks like an elephant’s foot. It is the most dangerous exposed radioactive mass on the planet! and just getting close to it for a short period of time will put your life in serious danger. Many may ask questions such as: How did they discover a dangerous mass like this? Or how did they photograph it? Well… We said that after the explosion, there were around 600,000 people, including workers, doctors, and engineers, who volunteered in this area to clean it and get rid of the radioactive materials and waste found in it. These people had an additional task: It was to build a cover or structure called ‘’sarcophagus’’, which means a coffin. It is a large concrete and steel covering built around the Chernobyl reactor. The role of this cover is to contain the radiation that is still emitted from the exploding reactor and prevent it from spreading.
Before building this sarcophagus, workers and scientists had to enter inside this building and check out if there were any other radioactive materials or dangerous elements that could cause a second explosion and spread the radiation in the area again. So, when they were approaching one of the rooms in the basement of the reactor, the radiometers kept showing crazy numbers, and because it was very dangerous to enter, they set up a remote control camera and were able to take the first picture of this frightening mass of radiation–The Elephant Foot–. The length of this block was only about two meters, yet its weight was up to 100 tons because its density was unbelievable! Well, this is what most of the sources say, but there are sources that questioned this number and claim that the weight of this mass may reach ten tons only .. Well, still a huge number!
In any case, The Elephant’s Foot was very, very dangerous at that time: Radioactivity near it was approximately 10,000 roentgens, or 100 grays per hour! Perhaps you don’t understand how dangerous this degree is, so let me tell you that only 500 roentgen is a lethal degree for humans. If you stand in front of this mass for only 30 seconds, you will feel a headache and severe pain that may not go away for weeks. And if you stand in front of it for two minutes, that time is enough to make all the cells in your body bleed from the inside. Are you frightened now? You should be! because if you continued standing there for five minutes, you would have received enough radiation to die within two days at most! However, this was only in the past because as the years passed, the Elephant’s Foot became much weaker.
In 1996, they were able to conduct a scientific study and intensive research on the Elephant’s Foot. Through this study, it was estimated that currently five minutes in front of this mass would make the person vulnerable to radiation diseases, but would not kill him. Now a person needs to stand in front of the Elephant’s Foot for a full hour to reach a lethal radiation exposure point. Which of course is still something scary, but it is much better than the previous situation, which guaranteed you death in just five minutes. The risk of the Elephant Foot became much lower. HOWEVER, it could still cause another type of disaster …
This mass is still very hot and continues to penetrate the concrete ground little by little. The greatest fear is that it will penetrate into the ground until it reaches the groundwater. If something like this happened, all groundwater in the area would be polluted, even in remote areas. On top of that, another explosion is likely to occur. There is no way to eliminate or get rid of this mass. These radiations will still exist for 100 thousand years ahead! For this it had to be contained and closed somehow…
As we said, after this disaster, a huge structure was built around the reactor named Sarcophagus. This huge building is made of steel that can suppress radiation in the place that is considered to be the most dangerous place on Earth. Which contains hundreds of tons of radioactive materials. But there is a problem … this Sarcophagus was not designed to last forever and their estimate was that it would last for only 30 years. And since it was built in 1986, this means that it will last until 2016. The reason why it will not last for long is the way it was built, as it was built very quickly because it was necessary to contain the radiation as soon as possible. This is why the building was not that strong and solid. Of course, repairing or restoring it from the inside is impossible because the workers will be exposed to dangerous radiation for long periods. And even if they think of using remote control machines, most of these machines may be destroyed by radiation that can easily destroy any electronic chips. A different solution had to be found before Sarcophagus collapsed. And for this, they started building a very large structure that could cover Sarcophagus itself and cover the reactor along with it. This new building is designed very carefully to suppress all radiation. In addition, it is designed to last for at least 100 years. This structure took seven years and about $3 billion to build. Financing this construction process was a very huge cooperation between dozens of countries around the world, including Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. This structure is the largest mobile building ever built and it was completed in 2016. Then, it took two weeks to be moved to the intended location – above the old sarcophagus building – They’re still, to this day, thinking of a way to safely dismantle the old sarcophagus and extract the radioactive materials inside the reactor. Anyway, this is but a future challenge because for now, the whole world hopes that these efforts and this new construction are sufficient to contain Chernobyl radiation and prevent any other potential threats.
Despite the attempts of the Soviet Union to hide the effects of the Chernobyl disaster, every one can know about them now. Taking ,for example, the number of deaths after this disaster which undoubtedly reaches hundreds of thousands of people, especially with the frightening spread of cancerous diseases among people due to nuclear radiation. In addition to this, the economic costs of this disaster are estimated today at 350 billion dollars. Of course, the area around Chernobyl, which reaches a distance of 30 km; particularly, the city of Pripyat, is considered a restricted area in general. Still, they are able to organize tourist trips to this city, with all necessary precautions and preparations put in place. If you enter the city of Pripyat, you will feel as if you are inside one of the places found in movies about the end of the world and zombies or games like The Last of Us! … You feel as if the forest began to revive the place: The trees and plants began to grow little by little. Not to forget that when the Soviet Union evacuated the city, they told its residents that they would return in only two weeks. That is why they left most of their things in their place, which are still present in the city and its buildings to this day. When you enter the city you feel as if their lives stopped at once! The city looks like a live demonstration of a real ghost town whose residents disappeared in the blink of an eye. This place gives us a wonderful look at the state of the world if the humans suddenly disappeared from it. For filmmakers and game designers that use the idea of the apocalypse, this place is the best source of inspiration! HOWEVER, Chernobyl will remain a frightening ghost haunting mankind and reminding them that a simple mistake can cause catastrophe and mass destruction which may completely change the shape of the world we know today.