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Remarkable new photos inside the Chernobyl nuclear power station

 PetraPixel.com, ARKADIUSZ PODNIESIŃSKI  25 Apr 21, ”/……………  The reason for my regular visits remains the same: the desire to document the changes taking place in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. And there’s been quite a few: from the construction of the New Safe Confinement (which I wrote about in more detail here), to the construction of several new industrial facilities that will make the decommissioning of the plant, including the damaged Reactor 4, possible and much safer. I hope that, under the influence of slow but systematic changes, eventually Chernobyl will not only be known as the site of the largest nuclear disaster in the world………

before we are allowed to enter the main part of the complex, aka the dirty zone, we have to change into protective gear and masks. We are also given a dosimeter that counts the dose of radiation absorbed. When we exit, the procedure is repeated in reverse order and so on in every complex we visit. Sometimes, the procedures take longer than our stay inside the facility.

…….. First, we got to the largest hall where there is a huge pool with more than 21,000 spent fuel assemblies from reactors 1-3. Depending on the location, radiation levels vary from 40 to 800 μSv/h, which is about 200-400 times higher than normal. The ISF-1 is a wet-type spent fuel storage facility, meaning that the fuel assemblies are stored in water. The huge pool consists of five reinforced concrete tanks covered by hundreds of steel plates.  As I step on them, I feel rather strange and insecure because I know what lies beneath them. Additionally, every step I take causes the steel flaps to move, causing a sound that echoes throughout the hall. I’m only calmed by the sight of the engineer, who confidently steps on the plates, not looking at me at all. After a moment, the engineer bends down and opens one. The radiation increases, but only slightly. The lack of a cover doesn’t change all that much; the greatest barrier against the radiation is the water.

The fuel assemblies are pulled out in the hall next door. Now I can stay here freely, but the radiation levels during this procedure are very high – about 2 Sv/h. This is already a dose that can cause serious radiation sickness or even death. Due to this, the entire process is controlled remotely through a small window made of thick leaded glass or through a system of monitors and cameras from a small room located several meters above us…..

ISF-2 – the Interim Spent Nuclear Fuel Storage Facility 2

The ISF-2 complex serves as an interim storage facility for dry-type spent fuel assemblies. Before the spent fuel goes there, it is processed first in a building located on the premises.

Inside, my attention is drawn to the “hot chamber”, the heart of the entire building. A huge, hermetically sealed room, completely isolated from the external environment by thick concrete walls; you can look inside through small leaded glass windows located on both sides of the chamber. Cameras resistant to high levels of radiation and remote-controlled machinery and tools have been installed inside. It is here that the spent fuel assemblies from the defunct reactors will be cut in half, dried, and later packed into double-layered steel canisters.

The view of the hot chamber makes me realize how dangerous a task we have before us. And a long-term one, since the radioactive isotopes in the fuel will take thousands of years to decay. 100 years, the storage period for the processed fuel in ISF-2, is just a blink of an eye for radioactive isotopes. What’s next? ISF-3? We don’t know yet…….. This is the problem we will face – well, not us but future generations.

In December 2020, the “hot tests” for the whole complex concluded. At that time, 22 containers with 186 fuel assemblies had been processed for the first time and then packed into two steel canisters and stored in concrete modules behind the main building. It is estimated that the entire fuel processing process will take about 10 years, and the complex will become the world’s largest dry spent fuel storage facility.

ICSRM – the Industrial Complex for Solid Radwaste Management

In addition to the ISF-1 and ISF-2, which deal with spent nuclear fuel, another two facilities have been built on the site for the treatment of solid and liquid radioactive waste collected from the operation and decommissioning of the power plant and from the sarcophagus.

In addition to the ISF-1 and ISF-2, which deal with spent nuclear fuel, another two facilities have been built on the site for the treatment of solid and liquid radioactive waste collected from the operation and decommissioning of the power plant and from the sarcophagus. I visit the first, where low-, intermediate- and high-level waste is processed for temporary or final storage, including concrete, sand, and metal. The huge building contains a system of airtight caissons, hot chambers, and other areas where radioactive waste is cut, fragmented, shredded, sorted by radioactivity level, compressed, and incinerated. All of the work is done using remote-controlled machines to which interchangeable tools can be attached — including a jackhammer, concrete crusher, chainsaw, and hydraulic shears. The processed waste is then encapsulated and sealed in concrete containers before being sent to a radioactive waste repository. Like the ISF-2, the plant has already processed its first batch of radioactive waste and currently is in the final stages of hot testing and certification.

New Safe Confinement

The New Safe Confinement (NSC) is a huge 110-meter-high steel construction that was built to cover the old, worn-out sarcophagus. ………………..

In this labyrinth of near-identical corridors, I quickly lose my sense of direction and, after a while, I stop paying attention to the signs. I blindly follow the dosimetrist. Although the masks prevent us from breathing in radioactive dust, there is nothing we can do to protect ourselves from the gamma radiation penetrating our bodies. Unseen dangers may lurk around every corner. In such a situation, the dosimeters are our eyes; thanks to them we know how far we can go.

The thought that I’m moving through a mysterious labyrinth of radioactive corridors covered by two sarcophagi stresses me out and increases my feelings of uncertainty and confusion. …….

About the author: Arkadiusz Podniesiński is a Polish photographer and filmmaker, a technical diver, and a graduate of Oxford Brookes University in Great Britain. You can find more of his work on his website. This photo essay was also published here.   https://petapixel.com/2021/04/24/exclusive-photos-inside-the-chernobyl-nuclear-power-plant/

April 26, 2021 - Posted by | Resources -audiovicual, Ukraine, wastes

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