Scientists monitoring the Chernobyl nuclear power plant say that nuclear fission reactions are occurring again in the reactor hall’s remains, some 35 years after the core exploded.
Sensors monitoring the masses of uranium fuel buried in the basement rooms of the reactor have detected rising levels of neutrons, signaling that the fission process used to create nuclear energy is occurring in one of the inaccessible rooms within the plant.
Maxim Saveliev, a researcher at the Institute for Safety Problems of Nuclear Power Plants in Kiev, Ukraine, said that there were ‘many uncertainties’ about the situation inside the remains of the reactor unit, adding that ‘we can’t rule out the possibility of [an] accident.’
It’s believed that around 95% of the original fuel from the reactor flowed into the plant’s basement rooms following the disaster in April 1986, forming solid ‘fuel-containing materials’ (FCMs.) A year after the explosion, a concrete-and-steel ‘sarcophagus’ was placed over the top of the reactor’s remains to contain radiation from the FCMs, with a larger, more secure ‘New Safe Confinement’ installed in 2016 at a cost of more than €1.5 billion.
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