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Sunday, August 2, 2015

The Elephant's Foot - The most toxic place on Earth

Photo courtesy of
The Elephant’s Foot is possibly the most dangerous chunk of refuse in the world. It isn't very big, just a couple of meters in diameter. However, it is dense, with a weight of several tons. It is made of a substance called "corium," which is named for the result of a radioactive slurry that is created when a nuclear reactor core melts down. In this case, the Elephant's Foot corium is in a room within the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Russia. When the plant "melted down" in April of 1986, the heat of the radioactive material rose to around 2,255 degrees Celsius (Over 4,000 degrees Farenheit). The intense heat literally melted the cement and sand within the plant to create a type of lava.
Due to the isotopic instability of corium, it changes over time, in specific phases. Some of the lava in the reactor is a specific mix of zirconium, silicate and radioactive uranium. This phase of the lava is known as "Chernobylite," and contains up to ten percent solid uranium.
The Chernobyl accident contained five different types of corium - Black Ceramic, Brown Ceramic, Slag-like Granulated, Pumice and Metal. In the case of the Elephant's Foot, the mix is classified as "black ceramic" corium.
As the lava emits heat and comes in contact with other substances throughout its long decay process, it continues to morph and change. Eventually, as the lava melts through the bottom of the nuclear plant, it will transform into a heavy metal. This will take tens of thousands of years, and if the blob comes in contact with water, an explosion or water table contamination is likely to result. Corium is "technogenic," meaning it is a man-made material.
Even though the Elephant's Foot becomes less lethal as time goes on, the intensity of the radiation will be toxic for some time to come. When the blob was discovered months after the catastrophe, it was still plenty hot. The black ceramic corium glowed in the dark, and any contact could kill a person within minutes. If a person spent five minutes within ten feet of the mass, they had no hope of living longer than 48 hours.

Initial toxicity at time of discovery (6 months after melt down):
300 seconds of exposure, w/in 10 feet = 2 days to live
240 seconds of exposure, w/in 10 feet = immediate vomiting, diarrhea and fever. Death to follow.

Current toxicity (Ten percent of initial toxicity): 
Just over an hour of exposure, w/in 10 feet = a lethal dose.

If you want to see some awesome Elephant's Foot videos, HERE YA GO!

Stephen L. Wilson is a writer for Blog of Ages. His experience as a self-publisher serves him well in this capacity. Wilson is the editor of two international charity anthologies, Twist of Fate and Angels Cried. He is also the author of the self-published eBook Life Bits and Other Chunks: Memoirs of an untrained man. Stephen has established and managed many international social network groups.