Shot Amid Chernobyl: Here Is The Most Radioactive Picture In The World

Worst than the flames of hell: the radioactive heart of Chernobyl. Yet a man managed to take a picture there.

Taken inside reactor 4 at the VI Lenin Nuclear Power Plant, this image shows the concentration of the most nuclear waste ever photographed. This pile of corium (a once-molten concoction of uranium, graphite, concrete, and sand) is called the elephant foot because of its shape. The picture was taken in 1996, ten years after the explosion of the Soviet power station.

© US Department of Energy

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In 1986, the radiations were so strong they could kill everyone who tried to step in within minutes. The Chernobyl accident emitted 400 times more reactivity than the Hiroshima bomb. The radiations were still strong at the end of the nineties, which explains the strange way this picture was developed.

It took a few years to manage to identify the man on the picture. The American department of energy managed to get this photo when the Ukrainian government created an international cooperation program to deal with nuclear waste. According to IFL Science, this picture started to appear on the web at the end of the nineties. It took a couple of decades before a journalist managed to get his hand on the original caption of the photograph which read:

"Artur Korneyev, Deputy Director of Shelter Object, viewing the 'elephants foot' lava flow at Chernobyl, 1996."

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© PNNL Library

Artur Korneyev is an expert on radioactivity. After the accident, he is the one who was put in charge of locating the radioactive material to evaluate its level of dangerosity and limit the exposure of the cleaning team. Nowadays we still don’t know who took this strange photograph, and Arthur Korneyev never clarified if he took it himself using a timer.

Despite the radioactivity to which he was exposed to, the Kazakhstan-born is still alive today. And while he is quite old and has fragile health, he is among the team who created the new shelter (a 400000 m3 of concrete and 7,300 tonnes of a metal framework built above the power station to contain the radioactivity) wish was completed in 2016.

By Apolline Bazin, published on 21/06/2019

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