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Fission reactions have been spiking in an inaccessible Chernobyl chamber since 2016 – possibility of a runaway nuclear reaction

Chernobyl Alert and The Doomsday Clock The Conversation,  BY ROBERT HUNZIKER  21 May 21, Like the mythical Phoenix, Chernobyl rises from the ashes.

A recent… “Surge in fission reactions in an inaccessible chamber within the complex” is alarming scientists that monitor the ruins of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine. (Source: Nuclear Reactions at Chernobyl are Spiking in an Inaccessible Chamber, NewScientist, May 11, 2021).

It is known that this significant renewal of fission activity is located in Sub-Reactor Room 305/2, which contains large amounts of fissile material from the initial meltdown. The explosion brought down walls of the facility amongst tons of fissile material within the reactor as extreme heat melted reactor wall concrete and steel combined with sand used to control the explosion to form a lava-like intensely radioactive substance that oozed into lower floors, e.g., Room 305/2. That room is so deadly radioactive that it is inaccessible by humans or robots for the past 35 years.

Since 2016, neutron emissions from Room 305/2 have been spiking and increased by 40% over the past 5 years. It signals a growing nuclear fission reaction in the room. According to Neil Hyatt/University of Sheffield-UK: “Our estimation of fissile material in that room means that we can be fairly confident that you’re not going to get such rapid release of nuclear energy that you have an explosion. But we don’t know for sure… it’s cause for concern but not alarm,” Ibid.

If it is deemed necessary to intervene, it’ll require robotically drilling into Room 305/2 and spraying the highly radioactive blob with a fluid that contains gadolinium nitrate, which is supposed to soak up excess neutrons and choke the fission reaction. Meanwhile, time will tell whether the monster of the deep in Room 305/2 settles down on its own or requires human interaction via the eyes and arms of a robot, which may not survive the intense radioactivity. Then what?

Meanwhile, an enormous steel sarcophagus, a $1.8bn protective confinement shelter, the New Safe Confinement (NCS) was built in 2019 to hopefully prevent the release of radioactive contamination. NCS is the largest land-based object ever moved, nine years construction in Italy delivered via 2,500 trucks and 18 ships. It is expected to last for 100 years. Thenceforth, who knows?

Nevertheless, according to nuclear professionals, the question arises whether this recent fission activity will stabilize or will it necessitate a dangerously difficult intervention to somehow stop a runaway nuclear reaction.

Inescapably, the bane of nuclear power, once dangerously out of control, remains dangerously out of control, forever and on it goes, beyond human time. Unfortunately, one nuclear accident is equivalent to untold numbers, likely thousands, of non-nuclear accidents.

“We thus drift toward unparalleled catastrophe.” (Albert Einstein)    https://www.counterpunch.org/2021/05/21/chernobyl-alert-and-the-doomsday-clock/

May 27, 2021 Posted by | safety, Ukraine | Leave a comment

Chernobyl nuclear tomb will eventually collapse. Sellafield, too, will need £132 billion, at least, to decommission.

LADBible 15th May 2021, A scientist has warned that Chernobyl nuclear power plant must be dismantled in the next 100 years or else it will collapse.

Professor Neil Hyatt is the Royal Academy of Engineering and Nuclear Decommissioning Authority’s research chair in radioactive waste management. Speaking to LADbible about recent developments that nuclear reactions had been detected from deep within the mummified plant – 35 years after its core exploded in what is widely viewed as history’s worst nuclear disaster – he says it’s time to act.

“If we don’t take it down, it’s going to fall down,” says Professor Hyatt, who teaches at Sheffield University. “The original shelter was built as a temporary facility to stabilise a situation and the New Safe Confinement is essentially the same thing – to buy us time. [But] it only buys us around 100 years or so.

“If you think about nuclear decommissioning, which I do all the time, look at the projects that are going on around the world. “There’s the Sellafield site in the UK – that’s one hundred years to decommission the Sellafield site at a cost of £132 billion, at least. “That probably tells you it’s going to take at least 50 years, if we started today, probably at a cost of about £900 million, to decommission Chernobyl.

“These are orders of magnitude, and the reason is because we still don’t know everything we need to know to decommission it, about the material inside.” He adds: “If we don’t take it down, it’s gonna collapse eventually. If you’ve bought yourself 100 years, you really need to start cracking on with the dismantling – probably in the next 20 years.

https://www.ladbible.com/news/news-scientist-warns-chernobyl-must-be-dismantled-in-next-100-years-20210512

May 17, 2021 Posted by | decommission reactor, Ukraine | 1 Comment

Human intervention may be required at Chernobyl as radiation levels spike

Unilad 13th May 2021, Scientists monitoring increased radiation levels at Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant are considering whether human intervention may be required to prevent a further catastrophe.

It was reported last week that sensors in one of the basement rooms containing solidified fuel (FCMs) from the remains of the destroyed nuclear reactor had been picking up increased levels of neutrons over the past four years, signalling the nuclear fission process has restarted. Nuclear scientists monitoring the activity say they aren’t
sure why the reactions are increasing, and they can’t rule out the possibility of an accident should levels continue to rise. Now, authorities are working to figure out a solution.

https://www.unilad.co.uk/news/human-intervention-may-be-required-at-chernobyl-as-radiation-levels-spike/

May 15, 2021 Posted by | incidents, Ukraine | Leave a comment

Nuclear fission reactions are happening at Chernobyl again

Nuclear Fission Reactions Are Happening at Chernobyl Again

Scientists are scrambling to neutralize the threat. Popular Mechanics, BY CAROLINE DELBERT, MAY 10, 2021

  • melted amalgam of nuclear fuel at Chernobyl is beginning to react.
  • The issue is rainwater, which has activated materials buried deep within the closed plant.
  • The reaction could burn out naturally, but it could also require human intervention.

On April 26, 1986, Reactor No. 4 exploded at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine, causing the worst nuclear accident in history. Now, thirty-five years later, smoldering nuclear “embers” are still buried within Chernobyl site, raising questions about just what might happen there—and what’s at stake.

Ukrainian scientists recently realized that leftover nuclear fission fuel made of uranium has begun reacting again in an “inaccessible room” deep within a damaged area of the shuttered plant. The telltale sign is increased readings of neutron activity—a measurable byproduct of nuclear fission, according to the scientists from Institute for Safety Problems of Nuclear Power Plants (ISPNPP) in Kyiv, Ukraine, who held discussions about dismantling the reactor last month, according to Science magazine.

  • Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant is surrounded by a massive megastructure called Chernobyl New Safe Confinement (NSC). At NSC, there are hundreds of sensors working around the clock to monitor factors like air quality, and the sensors have detected increased neutron activity near the fallen reactor hall where the “embers” are.
  • Some zones within the NSC are fully sealed off in their own sarcophagus-like structure called the Shelter—including the reactor hall where scientists have noticed the increasing neutrons. That means tough questions about what the best course of action is.Inside the reactor hall, everything is a dangerous mess. 
  • Science’s Richard Stone reports:
  • “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 a 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.”

It’s important to note that experts don’t fear a second Chernobyl disaster, as there isn’t enough viable material or surrounding collateral for that kind of threat or damage. But the right kind of small nuclear activity could bring down the Shelter itself, which is 34 years old and “rickety.”

Scientists believe rainwater leakage has caused similar higher neutron readings in the past, and they’ve since installed special chemical sprinklers that can stanch neutrons in most of the interior of the Shelter. But some basement rooms are just out of reach even for the sprinklers………. https://www.popularmechanics.com/science/energy/a36364988/chernobyl-nuclear-reactions/

May 11, 2021 Posted by | incidents, Ukraine | Leave a comment

Restless radioactive remains are still stirring in Chernobyl’s nuclear tomb.

‘It’s like the embers in a barbecue pit.’ Nuclear reactions are smoldering again at Chernobyl  https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2021/05/nuclear-reactions-reawaken-chernobyl-reactor

By Richard Stone, May. 5, 2021 ,  Thirty-five years after the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine exploded in the world’s worst nuclear accident, fission reactions are smoldering again in uranium fuel masses buried deep inside a mangled reactor hall. “It’s like the embers in a barbecue pit,” says Neil Hyatt, a nuclear materials chemist at the University of Sheffield. Now, Ukrainian scientists are scrambling to determine whether the reactions will wink out on their own—or require extraordinary interventions to avert another accident.

Sensors are tracking a rising number of neutrons, a signal of fission, streaming from one inaccessible room, Anatolii Doroshenko of the Institute for Safety Problems of Nuclear Power Plants (ISPNPP) in Kyiv, Ukraine, reported last week during discussions about dismantling the reactor. “There are many uncertainties,” says ISPNPP’s Maxim Saveliev. “But we can’t rule out the possibility of [an] accident.”

The neutron counts are rising slowly, Saveliev says, suggesting managers still have a few years to figure out how to stifle the threat. Any remedy he and his colleagues come up with will be of keen interest to Japan, which is coping with the aftermath of its own nuclear disaster 10 years ago at Fukushima, Hyatt notes. “It’s a similar magnitude of hazard.”

The specter of self-sustaining fission, or criticality, in the nuclear ruins has long haunted Chernobyl. When part of the Unit Four reactor’s core melted down on 26 April 1986, uranium fuel rods, their zirconium cladding, graphite control rods, and sand dumped on the core to try to extinguish the fire melted together into a 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% of the original fuel.

The concrete-and-steel sarcophagus called the Shelter, erected 1 year after the accident to house Unit Four’s remains, allowed rainwater to seep in. Because water slows, or moderates, neutrons and thus enhances their odds of striking and splitting uranium nuclei, heavy rains would sometimes send neutron counts soaring. After a downpour in June 1990, a “stalker”—a scientist at Chernobyl who risks radiation exposure to venture into the damaged reactor hall—dashed in and sprayed gadolinium nitrate solution, which absorbs neutrons, on an FCM that he and his colleagues feared might go critical. Several years later, the plant installed gadolinium nitrate sprinklers in the Shelter’s roof. But the spray can’t effectively penetrate some basement rooms.

Chernobyl officials presumed any criticality risk would fade when the massive New Safe Confinement (NSC) was slid over the Shelter in November 2016. The €1.5 billion structure was meant to seal off the Shelter so it could be stabilized and eventually dismantled. The NSC also keeps out the rain, and ever since its emplacement, neutron counts in most areas in the Shelter have been stable or are declining.

But they began to edge up in a few spots, nearly doubling over 4 years in room 305/2, which contains tons of FCMs buried under debris. ISPNPP modeling suggests the drying of the fuel is somehow making neutrons ricocheting through it more, rather than less, effective at splitting uranium nuclei. “It’s believable and plausible data,” Hyatt says. “It’s just not clear what the mechanism might be.”

The threat can’t be ignored. As water continues to recede, the fear is that “the fission reaction accelerates exponentially,” Hyatt says, leading to “an uncontrolled release of nuclear energy.” There’s no chance of a repeat of 1986, when the explosion and fire sent a radioactive cloud over Europe. A runaway fission reaction in an FCM could sputter out after heat from fission boils off the remaining water. Still, Saveliev notes, although any explosive reaction would be contained, it could threaten to bring down unstable parts of the rickety Shelter, filling the NSC with radioactive dust.

Addressing the newly unmasked threat is a daunting challenge. Radiation levels in 305/2 preclude getting close enough to install sensors. And spraying gadolinium nitrate on the nuclear debris there is not an option, as it’s entombed under concrete. One idea is to develop a robot that can withstand the intense radiation for long enough to drill holes in the FCMs and insert boron cylinders, which would function like control rods and sop up neutrons. In the meantime, ISPNPP intends to step up monitoring of two other areas where FCMs have the potential to go critical.

The resurgent fission reactions are not the only challenge facing Chernobyl’s keepers. Besieged by intense radiation and high humidity, the FCMs are disintegrating—spawning even more radioactive dust that complicates plans to dismantle the Shelter. Early on, an FCM formation called the Elephant’s Foot was so hard scientists had to use a Kalashnikov rifle to shear off a chunk for analysis. “Now it more or less has the consistency of sand,” Saveliev says.

Ukraine has long intended to remove the FCMs and store them in a geological repository. By September, with help from European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, it aims to have a comprehensive plan for doing so. But with life still flickering within the Shelter, it may be harder than ever to bury the reactor’s restless remains.

May 6, 2021 Posted by | incidents, Reference, Ukraine | Leave a comment

Ukraine’s nuclear industry in crisis – corrupt, unsafe, with politicised decision-making

Could Ukraine’s nuclear industry face another Chernobyl?

Thirty-five years after the disaster, the nuclear industry is Ukraine’s most reliable economic lifeline. But critics say it faces a perennial crisis caused by corruption, safety problems and politicised decision-making. Aljazeera, By 

Mansur Mirovalev, 26 Apr 2021  ”…………………. The nuclear industry remains Ukraine’s most reliable economic lifeline.

But domestic and international critics claim that the industry faces a perennial crisis caused by corruption; safety problems with ageing, worn reactors; disruption of ties with a Russian nuclear monopoly; and a politicised switch to US-made nuclear fuel.

Industry insiders, environmentalists and politicians claim that the construction of a spent fuel storage facility near the capital, Kyiv, and the proximity of Europe’s largest nuclear station in the southern city of Zaporizhzhia to Europe’s hottest armed conflict add to their concerns about the possibility of a nuclear incident, particularly in a nation that went through two popular uprisings since 2005 and lost a chunk of its territory to Russia.

……….. uranium dioxide sealed in zirconium alloy tubes in the rods emits radiation that has to be contained in hermetically sealed reactors. Ukraine’s Soviet-designed rods are hexagonal, resembling bee cells, while Western-made rods are square.

The switch is far from simple – but necessary, because Rosatom, Russia’s nuclear monopoly that charged Ukraine hundreds of millions of dollars a year, is controlled by the Kremlin. And the Kremlin has a well-known proclivity to use energy supplies as a political cudgel.

The switch to Westinghouse fuel is potentially dangerous,” Oskar Njaa, the Russia and Eastern Europe adviser for Bellona, a Norway-based nuclear industry monitor, told Al Jazeera.

In 2012, Westinghouse fuel rods had to be removed from the South Ukrainian power station after protective envelopes in two reactors were damaged.

Ukraine asked Rosatom for fuel and help – prompting Russian President Vladimir Putin to remark gloatingly that Rosatom experts had “to solve complex technical problems, take [the Westinghouse fuel] out and load the Russian fuel back in”.

Ukraine’s losses amounted to $175 million, Mikhail Gashev, Ukraine’s top nuclear safety inspector at the time, claimed – and banned the use of Westinghouse fuel.

Ukrainian experts doubted his assessment, and his decision was overturned after he was fired among hundreds of pro-Russian officials following Ukraine’s second anti-Russian popular uprising, the 2014 Revolution of Dignity.

Former Prime Minister Nikolay Azarov, another pro-Russian political figure who fled Ukraine after the revolt, said in 2017 that the decision was made “in spite of Ukraine’s security interests”.

Westinghouse modified the rods – and no further incidents were reported.

“That might be a sign of a better culture for safety and security in the industry,” Njaa said adding that his group is, however, “worried that incidents might become more severe and greater in numbers due to the ageing equipment at the plants.”………

Apart from the fuel, observers are also concerned about Ukraine’s ageing, worn reactors, 12 of which began operating in the 1980s and were supposed to be shut down in 2020. But Energoatom extended their lifespan spending hundreds of millions on each, thanks largely to loans from the European Union.

This is a common practice worldwide – the average lifespan of almost 100 nuclear reactors in the US is 40 years, and 88 have been approved for another 20 years. But some experts are worried about the safety measures and upgrades.

“What we witness every time a decision [to extend the lifespan] is made, some of the safety upgrades have either not been made or have not been made in full,” Iryna Holovko, the Ukraine coordinator for Bankwatch, a Prague-based environmentalist group, told Al Jazeera.

Bankwatch has for years been urging Ukraine to stop extending the lifespan of its “zombie reactors” without correcting “safety deviations” and detailed assessments of all the environmental risks for the people living around the stations and in neighbouring nations……….

The fuel switch brought about another problem; unlike Rosatom, Westinghouse does not take the spent fuel back for processing or storage.

Until December, Ukraine had two pretty problematic storage facilities – and an unfinished third one. One at the shut-down Chernobyl station is almost full. At the second one, an open-air yard outside the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, thousands of spent fuel rods are stored in ventilated concrete containers. In 2014, the plant was about 200 kilometres (125 miles) southwest of the front line of the separatist conflict.

The sight was horrifying to a visiting expert.

“I suddenly stood in front of the utterly unprotected interim storage,” Patricia Lorenz of Friends of the Earth, an environmentalist group that visited the plant on a fact-finding mission in 2014, told Al Jazeera. “It is basically unprotected against war and terrorism, while the front was close by back then.”

In May 2014, the station’s security and police turned away dozens of armed and masked far-right nationalists who tried to enter the plant to “protect” the station from the separatists.

Since then, the front line has moved eastward, and in December, Energoatom opened a third facility a mere 70 kilometres (43 miles) north of Kyiv, in the Chernobyl exclusion zone that is scheduled to receive the first batch of spent fuel in June.

But plans to transport spent fuel via Kyiv, the city of more than two million, drew sharp criticism.

“This will be happening in a country where everything turns upside-down, collides, explodes, and where lawlessness rules,” Kyiv-based environmentalist Vladimir Boreiko told reporters…………….  https://www.aljazeera.com/features/2021/4/26/does-ukraines-nuclear-industry-face-another-chernobyl

April 29, 2021 Posted by | politics, safety, secrets,lies and civil liberties, Ukraine | 1 Comment

Chernobyl nuclear disaster: ‘Three-day evacuation lasted 35 years’.

BBC 26th April 2021, Chernobyl nuclear disaster: ‘Three-day evacuation lasted 35 years’.
Thirty-five years ago an explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power station in Ukraine released lethal radiation into the atmosphere. The nearest city, Pripyat, home to around 50,000 people, was evacuated along with other communities in a 4,000 sq km zone.

Lyudmila Honchar was four years old at the time and lived in Pripyat with her parents. We joined her as she
returned to try and find her family home, 35 years on.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/world-europe-56864709–

April 27, 2021 Posted by | PERSONAL STORIES, Ukraine | Leave a comment

Soviet Documents Reveal Cover-Ups At Chernobyl Nuclear Plant Before 1986 Disaster

Soviet Documents Reveal Cover-Ups At Chernobyl Nuclear Plant Before 1986 Disaster https://www.ndtv.com/world-news/soviet-documents-reveal-cover-ups-at-chernobyl-nuclear-plant-before-1986-disaster-2422532 26 Apr 21, After a botched safety test in the fourth reactor of the plant, located in what was then Soviet Ukraine, clouds of radioactive material from Chernobyl spread across much of Europe in what remains the world’s worst nuclear disaster.

The Soviet Union knew the Chernobyl nuclear plant was dangerous and covered up emergencies there before the 1986 disaster, the Ukrainian authorities said as they released documents to mark the 35th anniversary of the accident on Monday.

After a botched safety test in the fourth reactor of the plant, located in what was then Soviet Ukraine, clouds of radioactive material from Chernobyl spread across much of Europe in what remains the world’s worst nuclear disaster.

The archives show there was a radiation release at the plant in 1982 that was covered up using what a KGB report at the time called measures “to prevent panic and provocative rumours”, Ukraine’s security service (SBU) said in a statement on Monday.

There were separate “emergencies” at the plant in 1984, it added.

“In 1983, the Moscow leadership received information that the Chernobyl nuclear power plant was one of the most dangerous nuclear power plants in the USSR due to lack of safety equipment,” the SBU said.

When a French journalist collected water and soil samples from the Chernobyl area after the accident in 1987, the KGB swapped the samples for fake ones in a special operation, the SBU cited another KGB report as saying.

Thirty-one plant workers and firemen died in the immediate aftermath of the 1986 disaster, mostly from acute radiation sickness.

Thousands more later succumbed to radiation-related illnesses such as cancer, although the total death toll and long-term health effects remain a subject of intense debate.

The present day government in Kyiv has highlighted the Soviet authorities’ bungled handling of the accident and attempts to cover up the disaster in the aftermath. The order to evacuate the area came only 36 hours after the accident.

“The 35th anniversary of the Chernobyl tragedy is a reminder of how state-sponsored disinformation, as propagated by the totalitarian Soviet regime, led to the greatest man-made disaster in human history,” the foreign ministry said.

April 27, 2021 Posted by | history, Russia, secrets,lies and civil liberties, Ukraine | Leave a comment

Ukraine opens new nuclear waste site

On 35th anniversary of Chornobyl disaster, Ukraine opens new nuclear waste site, 

Ukraine president vows to transform Chornobyl exclusion zone into a revival zone. Ukraine’s president on Monday unveiled a new nuclear waste repository at Chornobyl, the site of the world’s worst civilian nuclear disaster that unfolded exactly 35 years ago…….

Moving forward, the Ukrainian authorities announced they will use the deserted exclusion zone around the Chornobyl power plant to build a storage facility for Ukraine’s nuclear waste for the next 100 years.

The ex-Soviet nation currently has four nuclear power plants operating and has to transport its nuclear waste to Russia. The new repository will allow the government to save up to $200 million US a year…… https://www.cbc.ca/news/world/chornobyl-35th-anniversary-1.6002314

April 27, 2021 Posted by | Ukraine, wastes | Leave a comment

University of Sheffield researchers do detailed study of radioactive materials inside the wrecked Chernobyl nuclear reactor

Yorkshire Post 26th April 2021, University of Sheffield scientists to help clean up waste from ‘world’s
worst’ nuclear accident. On the 35th anniversary of one of the world’s worst nuclear disasters, new Yorkshire-led research has been published that could help to clean up the most dangerous radioactive materials that still
remain at the site in Chernobyl.

Scientists say the revealing findings – which are the most “detailed results” into the chemical makeup of the
radioactive materials inside the plant’s melted core to date – could ”pave the way” to safely remove hazardous waste from the site and help prevent future nuclear disasters.

Dr Claire Corkhill, the project lead, from the University of Sheffield, stressed the urgency to the research as until now only a very limited number of samples have been analysed by scientists round the world. This is because the most dangerous materials that remain inside Chernobyl are so hazardous, hampering efforts to safely contain or remove the materials from the disaster zone. Dr Corkhill, told The Yorkshire Post: “This is such a big breakthrough because it opens up a world of possibilities to develop a deeper understanding of some of the most dangerous materials that still remain in Chernobyl.

https://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/education/university-of-sheffield-scientists-to-help-clean-up-waste-from-worlds-worst-nuclear-accident-3213246

April 27, 2021 Posted by | radiation, Ukraine | Leave a comment

Getting the facts straight about Chernobyl, nuclear disasters, and ionising radiation

Fact check: 5 myths about the Chernobyl nuclear disaster

Monday marks the 35th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. What happened in the former Soviet Union on April 26, 1986, is no longer a secret.  DW, 

Is Chernobyl the biggest-ever nuclear disaster?

The 1986 nuclear disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant near the city of Pripyat in northern Ukraine is often described as the worst nuclear accident in history. However, rarely is this sensational depiction clarified in more detail. 

The International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale (INES) does classify nuclear events on a scale of zero to seven, breaking them down into accidents, incidents and anomalies. It was introduced in 1990 after being developed by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Nuclear Energy Agency of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (NEA/OECD). Level seven denotes a “major accident,” which means “major release of radioactive material with widespread health and environmental effects requiring implementation of planned and extended countermeasures.”

Both the Chernobyl and 2011 Fukushima disaster have been categorized as such. But INES does not allow for nuclear events to be classified within a level.

If the term nuclear disaster is not only used to describe events, or accidents, in nuclear reactors but also radioactive emissions caused by humans then there are many occasions when human-caused nuclear contamination has been greater than that of the Chernobyl disaster, explained Kate Brown, professor of science, technology and society at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“Let’s take the production of plutonium,” she told DW, referring to the American and Soviet plants that produced plutonium at the center of a nuclear bomb. “Those plants each issued as part of the normal working everyday order at least 350 million curies [a unit of radioactivity — Editor’s note] into the surrounding environment. And that was not an accident.

“Let’s look at, even more dire, the issuance of radioactive fallout in the detonation of nuclear bombs during the periods of nuclear testing ground, which were located throughout the world, ” she continued. “Those just take one isotope, one radioactive iodine, which is harmful to human health because it’s taken up by the human thyroid, causing thyroid cancer or thyroid disease.

“Chernobyl issued 45 million curies of radioactive iodine just in two years of testing, in 1961 and 1962. The Soviets and the Americans issued not 45 million curies, but 20 billion curies of radioactive iodine,” she said. And these tests, she added, were by design — not due to an accident or human error.

Are there mutants in the exclusion zone?

………….. “The influence of ionizing radiation may cause some restructuring in the body, but mostly it simply reduces an organism’s viability,” he explained, giving the example of high embryo fatalities in rodents due to genomic defects that prevented the organism from functioning. Those animals that survive the womb sometimes have disabilities that prevent them from staying alive in the wild. Vishnevsky and his colleagues have conducted research into thousands of animals in the exclusion zone, but have not found any unusual morphological alterations.

“Why? Because we were always dealing with animals that had survived and had won the fight for survival,” he said. He added that it was difficult to compare these animals with creatures that scientists had deliberately exposed to radiation in laboratories.

“That’s a very seductive idea, that human messed up nature and all they have to do is step away and nature rewrites itself,” she said. In reality, however, biologists say that there are fewer species of insects, birds and mammals than before the disaster. The fact that some endangered species can be found in the exclusion zone is not evidence of the area’s health and vitality.

Has nature reclaimed the site of the disaster?

Reports entitled “Life Flourishing Around Chernobyl” and photo series suggesting that the exclusion zone has become a “natural paradise” might give the impression that nature has recovered from the nuclear disaster. But Brown, who has been researching Chernobyl for 25 years, is adamant that this is “not true.”

“That’s a very seductive idea, that human messed up nature and all they have to do is step away and nature rewrites itself,” she said. In reality, however, biologists say that there are fewer species of insects, birds and mammals than before the disaster. The fact that some endangered species can be found in the exclusion zone is not evidence of the area’s health and vitality.

On the contrary: there has been a significant increase in the mortality rate and a lowered life expectancy in the animal population, with more tumors and immune defects, disorders of the blood and circulatory system and early ageing.

Scientists have attributed the apparent natural diversity to species migration and the vastness of the area. “The exclusion zone comprises 2,600 square kilometers [about 1,000 square miles]. And to the north are another 2,000 square kilometers to the north is Belarus’ exclusion zone,” said Vishnevsky. “There are also areas to the east and west where the human population density is extremely low. We have a huge potential for preserving local wild fauna.” That includes lynxes, bears and wolves which need a great deal of space.

But even 35 years after the disaster the land is still contaminated by radiation, a third of it by transuranium elements with a half-life of more than 24,000 years.

Is it safe for tourists to visit Chernobyl?

The exclusion zone was already a magnet for disaster tourists, but in 2019 annual numbers doubled to 124,000 after the success of the HBO miniseries Chernobyl. The State Agency of Ukraine on Exclusion Zone Management has set up a number of routes so tourists can visit the region by land, water or air. It has also drawn up a number of regulations to protect visitors, stipulating that people must be covered from head to toe. They shouldn’t eat any food or drink outside, and they should always follow official paths. It’s estimated that the radiation dose received over a one-day visit does not exceed 0.1 millisievert (mSv) — roughly the same dose that a passenger would be exposed to on a long-distance flight from Germany to Japan, according to Germany’s Federal Office for Radiation

Are there people living in the area?

Today, Pripyat, the closed city built to serve the nuclear plant and house its employees, is often described as a ghost town, as is the nearby city of Chernobyl.

However, neither has been entirely empty since 1986. Thousands of people, usually men, have stayed there, often working two-week shifts and ensuring that the crucial infrastructure in both cities continues to function. After the explosion in reactor No. 4, reactors 1, 2 and 3 continued to operate, closing down only in 1991, 1996 and 2000. Special units of the Ukrainian Interior Ministry police the zone. There are also stores and at least two hotels in Chernobyl, which are mainly for business visitors.

There are also a number of unofficial inhabitants, including people who used to live in the area and have chosen to return. They have settled in villages that were evacuated after the disaster. The exact number of people is unknown: when DW asked the State Agency of Ukraine on Exclusion Zone Management how many people lived in Chernobyl, the official answer was “nobody.” 

In 2016, about 180 people were thought to be living in the entire exclusion zone. Because they tended to be older, this number may well have fallen. Even though these locals are officially only tolerated, the state does support them in their everyday lives. Their pensions are delivered once a month, and every two to three months they are supplied with food by a mobile store.   https://www.dw.com/en/fact-check-5-myths-about-the-chernobyl-nuclear-disaster/a-57314231

Below – a video from past years tells the earlier story of the chernobyl disaster

April 26, 2021 Posted by | environment, radiation, Reference, Ukraine, wastes | Leave a comment

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 | Leave a comment

The Chernobyl story continues

Chernobyl: The next phase   https://www.ebrd.com/news/2021/chernobyl-the-next-phase.html By Axel  Reiserer, 23 Apr 2021

At 01:23:40 on 26 April 1986, the failure of a routine test at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine, then part of the Soviet Union, caused reactor 4 to explode, releasing parts of its radioactive core. It was the worst nuclear accident the world had ever seen, with far-reaching political, economic and ecological consequences. Thirty-five years on, Chernobyl is still as well-known as it was a generation ago.

Fires broke out, causing the main release of radioactivity into the environment. Wind carried contaminated particles over Ukraine, Belarus and Russia, as well as parts of Scandinavia and wider Europe. The 50,000 inhabitants of the adjacent town of Pripyat were evacuated, never to return.

The accident destroyed reactor 4, killing 30 operators and firemen within three months and causing numerous other deaths in weeks and months that followed. To this day, it remains the only accident in the history of the civil use of nuclear power when radiation-related fatalities occurred. The precise number of short- and longer-term victims remains heavily disputed.

By 06:35 on 26 April, all fires at the power plant had been extinguished, apart from the fire inside reactor 4, which continued to burn for many days. Some 5,000 tonnes of boron, dolomite, sand, clay and lead were dropped from helicopters in a bid to extinguish the blaze. When the destroyed reactor was later enclosed in a provisional structure – the so-called sarcophagus – these fuel-containing materials were also walled in.

The sarcophagus was built under extremely hazardous conditions and unprecedented time pressure. By November 1986, a steel and concrete shelter was in place to lock away the radioactive substances inside the ruined reactor building and to act as a radiation shield. It was always intended as a temporary measure, with an estimated lifespan of 20-30 years

The search for a long-term solution started soon after, alongside the massive challenge of cleaning up the accident site. By the end of 1991, the Soviet Union had dissolved and newly independent Ukraine had been left with the Chernobyl legacy. Following a G7 Action Plan to improve nuclear safety in central and eastern Europe, the Nuclear Safety Account was set up at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) in 1993. Two years later, the scope of the programme was extended to include Chernobyl.

A breakthrough came with the Shelter Implementation Plan in 1997, which provided a road map of how to the tackle the immediate and longer-term tasks. In the same year, the G7 officially invited the EBRD to set up and manage the Chernobyl Shelter Fund, which became the main vehicle for all efforts to ensure that the destroyed reactor 4 remained in an environmentally safe and secure state.

Emergency repairs in 1998 and 1999 prevented the imminent collapse of the sarcophagus, as well as a vent stack that was endangering the adjacent turbine hall over reactor 3, which was still in operation. It was only at the end of 2000 that all nuclear power generation in Chernobyl ceased. The following year saw a landmark decision to build an arch-shaped steel structure, called the New Safe Confinement (NSC), to seal off reactor 4.

In the subsequent years, several tasks were carried out simultaneously. Detailed technical work on the NSC started. The site had to be stabilised and prepared for the construction work. The first project the EBRD managed was the construction of a liquid radioactive waste treatment plant (LRTP) to handle some 35,000 cubic metres of low- and intermediate-level liquid waste at the site. Meanwhile, the safe storage of the spent fuel assemblies from reactors 1, 2 and 3 came into focus.

All this has been achieved. The LRTP has been operational since 2014. A new interim storage facility for the treatment and storage of spent fuel has been built and, after successful hot tests, is currently awaiting a permanent licence from the Ukrainian regulator. The NSC, the most visible Chernobyl project, was slid into position in late 2016 and then handed over to the Ukrainian authorities.

In total, the Bank has managed close to €2 billion in donor funds through the Chernobyl Shelter Fund and Nuclear Safety Account. Of this, the EBRD provided €715 million of its own resources to complete the Interim Storage Facility and New Safe Confinement.

Today, the New Safe Confinement dominates the skyline over Chernobyl, as the sarcophagus once did. The steel structure is 108 metres high and 162 metres long, with a span of 257 metres and a lifetime of at least 100 years. It was assembled in two stages in a cleaned area near the accident site and, despite its size and weight of 36,000 tonnes, was pushed 327 metres into position. It is the largest moveable structure ever built.

This is not where the story ends, however. The fact that the NSC has a lifespan of 100 years means that the next phase of work now has to be planned, agreed and implemented. The estimated 200 tonnes of radioactive nuclear fuel inside reactor 4 are now shielded by the New Safe Confinement. However, parts of the sarcophagus are becoming unstable and will have to be removed at some point. Once this is done, work will come closer to the reactor’s interior.

The EBRD remains a key partner in these efforts. Following a request by Ukraine, in November 2020, the Bank established the new International Chernobyl Co-Operation Account, aimed at creating an integrated plan for the site to serve as the basis for developing and implementing longer-term projects. The new fund will hold it first assembly meeting on Tuesday – fittingly one day after the 35th anniversary. The Chernobyl story continues.

April 24, 2021 Posted by | safety, technology, Ukraine, wastes | 2 Comments

New research on papillary thyroid cancer confirms the accepted science on the harmful effects of ionising radiation.

 

Our work provides a foundation for further investigation of radiation-induced cancer, particularly with respect to differences in risk as a function of both dose and age, and underscores the deleterious consequences of ionizing radiation exposure.

Radiation-related genomic profile of papillary thyroid cancer after the Chernobyl accident, Science Magazine, Lindsay M. Morton, Danielle M. Karyadi et al. 23 Apr 21,

Abstract

The 1986 Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident increased papillary thyroid cancer (PTC) incidence in surrounding regions, particularly for 131I-exposed children. We analyzed genomic, transcriptomic, and epigenomic characteristics of 440 PTCs from Ukraine (359 with estimated childhood 131I exposure and 81 unexposed children born after 1986). PTCs displayed radiation dose-dependent enrichment of fusion drivers, nearly all in the mitogen-activated protein kinase pathway, and increases in small deletions and simple/balanced structural variants that were clonal and bore hallmarks of non-homologous end-joining repair. Radiation-related genomic alterations were more pronounced for those younger at exposure. Transcriptomic and epigenomic features were strongly associated with driver events but not radiation dose. Our results point to DNA double-strand breaks as early carcinogenic events that subsequently enable PTC growth following environmental radiation exposure.

The accidental explosion in reactor 4 at the Chernobyl (Chornobyl in Ukrainian) nuclear power plant in April 1986 resulted in the exposure of millions of inhabitants of the surrounding areas of Ukraine, Belarus, and the Russian Federation to radioactive contaminants (1). Epidemiologic and clinical research in the ensuing decades has demonstrated increased risk of papillary thyroid carcinoma (PTC) with increasing thyroid gland exposure to radioactive iodine (131I) from fallout, which was deposited on pastures with grazing cows and ingested through milk and leafy greens, particularly during early childhood (2). Together with data from populations exposed to other types of radiation, compelling evidence indicates that PTC risk increases following childhood exposure to ionizing radiation, a recognized carcinogen (25)……….

The majority of individuals with PTC were female (n = 335, 76.1%), resided in the Kiev (Kyiv in Ukrainian) region at the time of the accident (n = 286, 65.0%), and were diagnosed during young adulthood (mean = 28.0 years, range: 10.0-45.6),,……..

The pronounced evidence of radiation-related damage that we observed for individuals exposed at younger ages is consistent with epidemiologic analyses that have identified higher thyroid cancer risks with radiation exposure at younger ages …………

our data are consistent with a linear dose-response for the key molecular characteristics associated with radiation dose in the range examined in our analysis (≤1 Gy), which aligns with the extensive radiobiological literature and other epidemiologic evidence regarding DNA damage and cancer risk following ionizing radiation exposure………….

Our work provides a foundation for further investigation of radiation-induced cancer, particularly with respect to differences in risk as a function of both dose and age, and underscores the deleterious consequences of ionizing radiation exposure.  https://science.sciencemag.org/content/early/2021/04/21/science.abg2538.full

April 24, 2021 Posted by | radiation, Ukraine | Leave a comment

New documentary explores Chernobyl Exclusion Zone

Her 18th Feb 2021, Channel 5 is releasing a new documentary about the Chernobyl disaster which will be hosted by adventurer Ben Fogle. This documentary will see Ben Fogle
explore the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant itself where the explosion
happened and live in the surrounding areas and danger zones that were
destroyed in the disaster and are still to this day radioactive. The plant
exploded on the 26th April 1986 sending massive amounts of radioactive
material across Europe. It is the worst nuclear accident in history, even
after over 30 years there’s still too much radioactivity in the area for
people to be there for long periods of time. Ben will live inside the
Chernobyl Exclusion Zone for 7 days, they have even been granted access to
film in the power plant and the control room but they can only spend 5
minutes inside the control room, due to radiation safety restrictions.

https://www.her.ie/entertainment/inside-chernobyl-new-documentary-nuclear-disaster-gets-release-date-518329

February 20, 2021 Posted by | Resources -audiovicual, Ukraine | Leave a comment