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A scientist has warned that Chernobyl nuclear power plant must be dismantled in the next 100 years or else it will collapse.
Professor Neil Hyatt is the Royal Academy of Engineering and Nuclear Decommissioning Authority's research chair in radioactive waste management.
Speaking to LADbible about recent developments that nuclear reactions had been detected from deep within the mummified plant - 35 years after its core exploded in what is widely viewed as history's worst nuclear disaster - he says it's time to act.
"If we don't take it down, it's going to fall down," says Professor Hyatt, who teaches at Sheffield University.
"The original shelter was built as a temporary facility to stabilise a situation and the New Safe Confinement is essentially the same thing - to buy us time. [But] it only buys us around 100 years or so.
"If you think about nuclear decommissioning, which I do all the time, look at the projects that are going on around the world.
"There's the Sellafield site in the UK - that's one hundred years to decommission the Sellafield site at a cost of £132 billion, at least.
"That probably tells you it's going to take at least 50 years, if we started today, probably at a cost of about £900 million, to decommission Chernobyl.
"These are orders of magnitude, and the reason is because we still don't know everything we need to know to decommission it, about the material inside."
He adds: "If we don't take it down, it's gonna collapse eventually. If you've bought yourself 100 years, you really need to start cracking on with the dismantling - probably in the next 20 years.
"You've got to have a really good program underway in 20 years, then that takes 30-40 years to work its way through. And then you've got some more waste packaging to deal with at the end, and that's 100 years gone.
"So it doesn't feel like it's very urgent, right, but actually 100 years in nuclear decommissioning timeframes is not a lot of time - the radioactivity lasts hundreds of thousands to a million years, so in the timeframe of the radioactivity, it's quite short."
But what happens if we act too late and Chernobyl does collapse? Well, that's another grey area scientists are concerned about.
"It wouldn't be cooling towers being blown up and it all falls down in a neat pile at once," Professor Hyatt says.
"You would see parts of it that are structurally degraded fall down inside, and that would make the access problem even more challenging.
"And radioactive dust would be generated by that, which the Safe Confinement is there to contain."
Scientists working on Chernobyl recently recorded increasing levels of neutrons coming from deep inside, and are working to determine whether these will level off on their own or if urgent action is required.
Professor Hyatt describes the fission reactions as the 'embers in a barbecue pit', and says this should focus our minds.
He continues: "I think to those of us who worry about and are engaged with it, and try in some small way to push it forward, it's another reminder.
"I think for the wider world, very broadly, it is probably something that they're going to think about for a week or two, or a day or two, and then it will be 'out of sight, out of mind'.
"People like me and people I work with need to persuade our governments that they need to work with the government of Ukraine and deploy our technology.
"If we want to be a responsible nuclear nation, that means dealing with the legacy of our past and being responsible actor on the world stage, and supporting Ukraine in its decommissioning of Chernobyl. We do not in the future want to feel the consequences of not having acted now."
Featured Image Credit: PA
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