Nuclear Reactions Have Started Again In The Chernobyl Reactor
Published in Jun 2021 / Updated in Oct 2021
The Chernobyl nuclear disaster happened some 35 years ago. Although most people expect that the radiation is going down, scientists monitoring the nuclear plant have claimed that the fission reactions have started increasing once again.
Apparently, the hall remains of the nuclear plant are radioactive once more since the devastating explosion occurred over three decades ago.
There are sensors buried deep in the basement rooms of the reactor, and they indicate that there are increasing neutron levels. According to experts, this indicates that nuclear fission is taking place once again in one of the inaccessible rooms within the plant.
There is still a lot of uranium fuel buried in the reactor.
The levels themselves are increasing gradually, but what's worrying is that scientists have not figured out what has triggered this problem after all this time. More importantly, quick action is now necessary to contain the reaction within the plant.
The Increased Radiation Levels Raise Many Unknown Concerns
According to Maxim Saveliev, there are "many uncertainties" about this issue.
Saveliev is a researcher working with the Institute for Safety Problems of Nuclear Power Plants in Kyiv, Ukraine. He also claimed that the possibility of an accident having happened cannot be completely ruled out.
Experts believe that a staggering 95% of the original fuel flowed into the basement rooms after the disaster took place in 1986. These materials ended up forming solid 'fuel-containing materials' (FCMs).
Just a year after the disastrous incident, a concrete-and-steel 'sarcophagus' was put over the remains as a way to contain the radiation coming from the FCMs. Back in 2016, a much safer 'New Safe Containment' was put in place for over €1.5 billion.
After this intervention, there was reportedly a greater stabilization of the neutron count in most areas of the plant.
However, recent reports show that the room in question has experienced radiation level increases that have almost doubled in four years.
According to Neil Hyatt, a nuclear material chemist, the situation inside the reactor hall is comparable to "embers in a barbecue pit."
The Development Alters Ongoing Long-term Plans To Deal With The Disaster
For several years, Ukraine has been trying to develop ways to get rid of FCMs before they got to critical levels. In fact, the country had plans to make public suggestions for doing so later in the year.
However, Ukraine might have to shelf such plans since the new radiation levels indicate that the radiation is too powerful for humans to get in and deal with the situation. Handling the FCMs that have caused a spike in the fission reaction levels is now much more difficult.
That said, the country is also considering creating a robot that can withstand the radiation so that it can handle the perilous process of inserting boron cylinders into the uranium deposits.
Fortunately, there is no risk of a continent-wide disaster, as was the case back in 1986. However, Hyatt admits that the ongoing increase in radiation levels could result in an "uncontrolled release of nuclear energy."
This possible occurrence, according to scientists, might cause a partial collapse of the old sarcophagus, a process that could fill the NSC (New Safe Containment) with radioactive dust.
Although the disaster at Chernobyl took place a couple of decades ago, the scene of this unfortunate event continues to create new problems for the country even today. Experts are still working on ways to contain the world's worst nuclear disaster.