Chernobyl may be coming back to life by itself nearly 35 years after the area was abandoned due to a reactor explosion, causing the worst nuclear accident known to man. The whole area was abandoned as the radiation killed the plants and vegetation, contaminated the water, even milk from cows had to be thrown away for many years. Recent reports now show that the leftover nuclear waste might just be showing signs of a fission reaction.
According to the scientists from the Institute for Safety Problems of Nuclear Power Plants or ISPNPP in Kyiv, Ukraine, the leftover nuclear fission fuel may be experiencing fission again due to unknown reasons. They said that the uranium has begun reacting again in an “inaccessible room” deep within the ruins of the destroyed plant. What makes them sure about this is the increased readings of neutron activity which is a textbook byproduct of a nuclear fission reaction.
The ISPNPP recently had discussions about dismantling the reactor last month but it seems now no discussions are needed. However, handling the situation is tougher than just going in and stopping everything. According to reports about the reactor hall, “When [the] reactor’s core melted down, uranium fuel rods, their zirconium cladding, graphite control rods, and sand dumped on the core to try to extinguish the fire melted together into lava. It flowed into the reactor hall’s basement rooms and hardened into formations called fuel-containing materials (FCMs), which are laden with about 170 tons of irradiated uranium—95 [percent] of the original fuel”.
This isn’t the first time they have seen the increased neutron readings as rainwater has been causing neutron readings to a spike in the past. To counter it, scientists have installed special chemical sprinklers that can stanch neutrons in most of the interior of the Shelter but some rooms in the basement can’t be reached by the sprinklers. Water usually helps slow the neutrons down, increasing the chances of them reacting with the remaining nuclear fuel.
The Chernobyl New Safe Confinement was installed back in 2016 with the goal of blocking rainwater from falling into the site and further pushing the neutrons to induce fission reactions. However, the readings still haven’t subsided even after the water has supposedly dried off.
Scientists have been discussing future steps after coming to the realization of nuclear fission reactions starting up again but according to the readings they still have a few years before they absolutely must go and stop them. The location, however, is far too irradiated for any human intervention thus some scientists are considering sending in robots.
I guess the ghosts of Chernobyl will continue to haunt the world for years to come.