As you know, lava, being a red-hot liquid or viscous mass, destroys everything living in its path. On April 26, 1986, uranium and zirconium, melted at a temperature of more than 1200 degrees as a result of the Chernobyl accident, turned not only all living things into piles of radioactive ash in Chernobyl.
Radioactive lava, along with melted metal, burned even a steel reactor vessel in its path. Having reached the concrete foundation, it began to envelop the entire perimeter of the 4-th power unit, turning seemingly strong concrete structures into a fragile, crumbling substance.
This is a wild sight. The core of the reactor became the crater of the most destructive volcano in the world, its frozen images, due to catastrophic melting – hardened radioactive rocks are terrifying even today.
The accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, which occurred on April 26, 1986, continues to shock. Today everyone already knows that firefighters rushed to the most dangerous rubicons of disaster on that tragic night. About 16,000 people were sent to manually disassemble the radioactive debris, not realizing the danger, not thinking about the consequences.
What became of these people is known to the whole world. Genetics, ecologists, zoologists, botanists are still studying the consequences for flora and fauna. Nuclear fusion, which got out of control due to the shutdown of the reactor cooling system, led to the inevitability of the most sinister nuclear disaster in the world.
The molten fuel rods of the reactor, together with their shell, body and concrete floor directly to the premises of the rector, had set in motion the trigger of the chain of the most terrible destruction. Fuel granules are inside the graphite rods of a nuclear reactor. They are almost completely made of uranium oxide. The casing in which they are packaged is an alloy of zirconium. All this radioactive fuel mixture during melting is an instant and terrible death of everything that stands on such a red-hot lava, and not only.
Concrete decays and enters the lava flow by becoming brittle, although it does not melt. This confirms the high content of silicates in it. The radioactive lava was not too viscous due to the specific chemical structure and the highest possible temperature. Such lava material spread quickly, which confirms the presence of stalactites hanging from pipe fragments in the destroyed core of an exploded reactor.
Everyone was terribly afraid in the first period of liquidation of the consequences of the Chernobyl accident that the radioactive lava could burn through the sealant itself, into which the reactor was packed. Leaking out of the hermetic structure of the reactor, the radioactive lava would automatically fall into the groundwater. And this is another global catastrophe that could turn the waters of the Black Sea basin into a continuous radioactive aquarium. It became known only after some time that the red-hot liquid lava stopped flowing, having cooled to a temperature below 1100 degrees.
More than six months after the accident, solidified with strange forms, radioactive lava was found inside the ruins of the remains of the reactor using remote surveillance cameras. The giant drop, earthy gray in color, resembled the roughened tree bark and was called the “elephant leg”.
Its radioactivity was about 8,000 x-rays per hour at the time of detection. This is a terrible dose – it does not give a chance of survival. Human life is measured in three minutes in the field of such radiation. Only ten years after the accident, experts were able to descend into the reactor and take the first pictures with the help of more modern equipment and protective equipment, which are still considered the most dangerous in the world.
The photos came out blurry, the reason is the extremely high radiation background. Nevertheless, you can see in the photo crystalline material that looks like solidified lava. This result of nuclear fusion of certain metal alloys, in collaboration with radioactive components, was called corium.
Subsequently, the alloy of uranium, zirconium and silicon received an unofficial name — “Chernobylit”. That is how geologists call lava material and its shaping, arising from the melting of the active zone of the fourth reactor of the Chernobyl nuclear plant. This material has become a kind of discovery in the field of geology and mineralogy.
“Chernobylit” is a crystalline form of zirconium orthosilicate with a huge content of solid uranium. In simple words, this is an alloy of nuclear fuel components with many other compounds, it is simply not possible to find such a mineral in nature just like that. It is a product of exclusively the creation of “human hands”, as much as paradoxical it may sound. Its formation is possible only under conditions leading to a nuclear explosion. The structure of this mineral is very unusual. These are dipyramidal crystals of various sizes, there are specimens from 5 to 500 microns.
Nowadays it is still difficult to imagine what can be done with such material? Could it be useful, well, say in some industrial sector? Only one thing can be said with probability – modern science still knows very little about such minerals. In particular, no one will assume what other substances or compounds can be obtained using a nuclear explosion.
Today, experiments in this area are a risk on the verge of a foul for the majority of sane people, threatening the destruction of human civilization. It is not known how many more years will pass when scientific discoveries in this area will become peaceful in nature and will have nothing to do with the consequences of terrible technological disasters.
Let professionals decide if they will work with “Chernobyl” or leave it as an exhibit. At present, the main thing for a person is to know that such geological finds are a thing, although extremely rare, but not safe. No one can guarantee that such geological experiments will not be harmful. Therefore, the question of conducting all kinds of studies of the remains of radioactive fuel should be raised first, subject to all existing safety standards, and only then the word is after the discoveries.
To date, the remains of nuclear fuel are safely hidden under the dome of modern confinement thanks to the tremendous efforts and titanic work of tens of hundreds of people. The remaining 180 tons of radioactive material will no longer be able to harm humanity, however, scientists continue to investigate the inside of the destroyed reactor.
The researchers approached the epicenter of the Chernobyl accident for three years step by step, through the premises conquered from radiation, through specially drilled wells. Over the years they passed, crawled, ran through the tunnels of the fourth power unit the most terrible minutes of their lives. They still continue to research fragments of radioactive fuel. What they are looking for, and what mineral will become a new sensation in the field of nuclear geology, time will tell.