On the 26th of April 1986, during a safety test to reactor 4 of the nuclear power plant of Chernobyl, a sudden and uncontrollable raise in the reactor core caused, with a complex sequence of chemical reactions, an unparalleled catastrophe.
The pressure of the overheated steam blew up the lid of the reactor of the weight of over 1,000 tons, leading to a fire inside the core, which eventually shot radioactive material and detritus in the air. A large area around the power plant was soon contaminated, whereas the radioactive cloud spread throughout all Europe all the way to France, Italy, Germany, Scandinavia and even Greace and Spain.
Below: aerial view of the reactor 4 – picture shared via Wikipedia
During the reactor fusion process something like lava started to form. This substance, named “Corium”, was a mixture of nuclear fuel, fission products, control rods, structural components coming from the fused reactor, due to their reaction with air, water and steam.
Below: leakage of the fuel lava. Image shared via Wikipedia
The melted corium slipped from the bottom of the cylinder of the reactor, going through the pipes of concrete. There it solidified and, once cooled down, it developed into stalactities, stalagmities and lava flow.
Amongst those formations, the most known one is the Elephant’s Foot
Below: the Elephant’s Foot. Pic by Artur Kornayev. Image shared via Wikipedia
The spot in which the Corium solidified was pinpointed only in December 1986. Around the reactor there was a sort of “coffin”, made out of steel and concrete, with some access points for when it was necessary to carry out any inspection. During one of those episodes, the scientists registered such an insanely high level of radiations that would have killed a man in 300 seconds. To understand what was causing such a peak. a technician used a camera set up on a trolley: it was than that the radioactive monster, the Elephant’s Foot, was found.
Such a radioactive conglomerate is a mass of material so lethal that standing nearby its presence for 30 seconds causes dizziness and faintness, after 2 minutes the hemorrhages starts and after 4 vomit, diarrhoea and flu step in.
After 5 minutes it is certain death
Below: Artur Korneyev observe the mass of Corium. 1996
The content of the coffin will preserve its radioactive power for then upcoming 100,000 years whereas the area around the power plant will still need approximately 100 years before being habitable. A few people still live there illegally, looking for adventures near the power plant itself.
What appears odd now is the fact that cameras observe a surprisingly repopulation of the wildlife. Unexpectedly, the Chernobyl area has become some sort of shelter for many animals, seeming to be in perfect shape.