Chernobyl and the Elephant Foot
The Elephant’s Foot is a solid mass made of melted nuclear fuel, portions of the nuclear reactor core, fission products, and control rods. This corium material melted through the bottom of the reactor vessel, oozed through pipes, ate through concrete, and eventually cooled enough to solidify. In 1986 this mass was discovered by researchers who attached a camera to a wheeled contraption and rolled it in the direction the incredibly high radiation readings were emanating from. The radiation levels from it were so high that anyone exposed to it for more than a few minutes would die. Thirty seconds was enough to cause dizziness and fatigue. Two minutes near it and your cells will begin to hemorrhage. By the time you hit the five-minute mark, you’re a goner. Even after 30 years, the foot is still melting through the concrete base of the power plant. Its existence makes the city uninhabitable to humans for at least the next 100 years. If it melts down into a source of ground water, it could trigger another explosion or contaminate the water of nearby villages.