The Elephant’s Foot of the Chernobyl disaster. In the immediate aftermath of the meltdown, a few minutes near this object, would bring certain death. Picture: Universal History Archive/UIG/Getty Images
The Elephant’s Foot of the Chernobyl disaster. In the immediate aftermath of the meltdown, a few minutes near this object, would bring certain death. Picture: Universal History Archive/UIG/Getty Images

‘Elephant’s Foot’: Most toxic mass in the world

EVEN to this date, the situation in Chernobyl is seen to be the most catastrophic power plant accident in history.

Fittingly, it is also home to the most toxic mass in the world.

After six months of investigating the decimated area with the assistance of remote cameras, the toxic mass - dubbed the "Elephant's Foot" - was discovered.

Made up of a dangerous composition of molten sand, concrete, and a mass amount of nuclear fuel, the Elephant's Foot is said to be more than 2m wide and described to be steaming hot at the time of discovery.

 

The Elephants Foot of the Chernobyl disaster. In the immediate aftermath of the meltdown, a few minutes near this object, would bring certain death. Picture: Universal History Archive/UIG/Getty Images
The Elephants Foot of the Chernobyl disaster. In the immediate aftermath of the meltdown, a few minutes near this object, would bring certain death. Picture: Universal History Archive/UIG/Getty Images

Moving quickly, a large concrete structure was created to house the devastated city and the Foot, shielding the rest of the world from the continuous amounts of radiation it emitted.

During the investigation and construction of what is now known as the "sarcophagus" - a massive concrete structure deep within the ruined city of Chernobyl - it is said that all workers involved perished within a year due to radiation exposure.

Due to an unforeseen series of events during a safety test, the switching off of all safety systems caused destructive reaction conditions.

The reactors exploded, forcing mass amounts of radioactive fumes to be launched into the air and into the surrounding area.

More than 4000 deaths are now attributed to the reactor explosion and it's radiation emission. Needless to say, interest in The Elephant's Foot inspired construction to allow access to the highly toxic mass through the use of security doors.

Only two pictures of the foot were released to the public, and are interesting to say the least. Due to the crushing pressure of the Foot, even the camera's film was affected. This resulted in the deterioration of the photos, and anomalies in the picture quality itself.

This resulted in odd auras over the picture over time. Hauntingly, both photographers would soon fall victim to the foot's toxicity and perish shortly afterwards.

Notice how the camera’s film was affected.
Notice how the camera’s film was affected.

 

Emitting an overwhelming 10,000 roentgens per hour, it would only take 300 seconds in the mass' presence for certain death to come within just two days. Five to 10 Roentgens means changes in a person's blood chemistry; 70 Roentgens - vomiting and hair loss; 1000 Roentgens - destruction of the intestinal lining, internal bleeding and, inevitably, death.

But the story doesn't end there. In 1992, the rush to find a better solution than the sarcophagus reached desperate levels.

The sarcophagus itself was built to only last a total of 30 years before it would be deemed unsafe once more. A self contained "competition" to create a solution for the situation was started to attract ideas - resulting in the bid to create the world's largest mobile metal structure to this day.

The project reportedly has estimated to be worth around $US2.3 billion.

It boasted of creating a large shieldlike arch that would be utilized not only to minimise and restrain radiation, but also to house robotic equipment that would be used to over time dismantle both the sarcophagus, and the reactor itself.

The arch structure was finally completed and successfully moved over the contamination site in 2017. Construction and the dismantling project is still ongoing.

A bumper car ride in an abandoned amusement park in Pripyat, Ukraine. The area was evacuated after the nuclear accident at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in 1986. Picture: Nicole Evatt
A bumper car ride in an abandoned amusement park in Pripyat, Ukraine. The area was evacuated after the nuclear accident at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in 1986. Picture: Nicole Evatt

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