Sunday, December 2, 2012

Corium and "Chernobylite"





"Lava, glass and crystal flow discovered in the base of the reactor In December 1986, an intensely radioactive mass was discovered in the basement of Unit Four and scientists rigged up a crude wheeled camera to investigate. The mass was more than two metres across and weighed hundreds of tons. [This statement is in error, the foot cannot weight more than a few tons.] Because of its odd wrinkled shape, it was christened, “the elephant’s foot”. To approach it meant certain death. Analysis of the material showed that it was composed of sand, glass and nuclear fuel, and the proportion of sand suggested to scientists that a large amount of fuel had escaped from the reactor in this form. Underneath the reactor, the investigation team found steaming hot concrete and, draining into the basement, lava and spectacular unknown crystalline forms - Chernobylite."

"The “elephant’s foot,” a two metric ton slab of materials from Chernobyl’s melted reactor core. The slab is melted 2 meters deep into concrete and cannot be approached; to obtain samples, scientists use AK-47s to shoot off pieces. The Chernobyl reactor today is covered in a huge concrete box called the sarcophagus. As of 1998, the debris inside the sarcophagus was emitting radiation levels as high as 10,000 rontgens (average city background radiation is about 35 microrontgens). The sarcophagus is predicted to collapse; rain water corrosion is already threatening the roof and leaking radioactive material into the soil. A new confinement system will be installed in 2013. Interestingly, the inside of the reactor is covered in black radiotrophic fungus, which uses melanin to convert gamma radiation into energy."

The first claim, that this lump weighs hundreds of tons, sounds way off.

BBC

2 comments:

Hugh Janus said...

The elephants foot may not be very large, but if you think about it its a condensed lump of super-heated glass, sand and Uranium which could have an enormous mass regardless of its size.

High Power Rocketry said...

Hundreds of tons is still crazy, it is not 200 times denser than water. Pure uranium is 19 metric tons per cubic meter. This foot looks to be on the order of one cubic meter but is in no case 10! (Neither is it remotely pure uranium, it is mostly rock.)