Strange New Substance Found in Chernobyl

Located in northern Ukraine, the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant is approximately 10 miles from the city of Chernobyl. In 1986, the Chernobyl disaster occurred, causing core explosions and open-air fires. Because of this horrific nuclear power accident, large areas of Europe were negatively impacted. 

Although the plant is now closed, it is still causing negative impact on the area. 

What Is the Significance of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant?

Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant Source: Shutterstock
Source: Shutterstock

The nuclear disaster that occurred from the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant was widely regarded as one of the worst accidents in the history of nuclear power. 

During the cold war, it was difficult to understand why the plant had exploded. In fact, it was kept a secret for many years after. Although the effects of radiation weren’t well-known at the time, many surrounding countries were impacted.

The core explosion may have happened decades ago — 1986 to be exact. But in 2013, a portion of the roof collapsed into the area of the turbine hall. 

A large cloud of nuclear gas escaped when the number 4 reactor was destroyed, causing long-lasting and far-reaching effects on people’s lives surrounding the area. Some of its impact stretched as far as Norway.

Although the Chernobyl Nuclear Plant has been closed, this does not necessarily mean it is safe. Because the Soviet Union could not afford to shut the plant down, the scheduling for its decommissioning process determines on dismantling one of the reactors.

Why Is The Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant Back In The News?

Even though most living organisms cannot survive radiation, a new melanin-filled fungus was found inside the Chernobyl nuclear reactor.

black fungi/moldSource: Shutterstock
Source: Shutterstock

According to research, some fungi can use melanin, a pigment found in human skin, to use the energy from radiation to grow. Similar black mold that also has melanin was found in the Chernobyl Atomic Energy Station during the Chernobyl disaster of 1986. Instead of being repelled by the radiation, this particular fungus thrives off it.

How Can This Be?

It may seem unlikely that any type of living organism could not only live with the high effects of this type of radiation but thrive off its energy. This is because of the specific type of fungi that was found.

The melanin found inside black fungi allows it to feed off the gamma rays. Once the gamma rays are used, the black fungi can then convert this into a type of chemical energy. This process is known as radiosynthesis.

Since melanin can be found in human skin cells, many scientists wonder if this type of molecule can be collected from humans to turn radiation into chemical energy. While this is still an on-going question, the possibility remains open to many experts in the field.

What Does This Fungus Mean For The Future?

This type of black fungus may not be the only organism that thrives off radiation energy. While it is currently a new development, the possibility of other radiation-hungry organisms may be alive and well.

By using the fungi’s ability to absorb radiation, scientists hope that those exposed to radiation can be cured. This type of radiation-eating treatment would be ideal for those who have been treated for cancer, or nuclear power plant engineers are more susceptible to radiation exposure and damage.

Is The Chernobyl Power Plant Still Dangerous?

Because of a faulty safety test in 1986, the Chernobyl Power Plant led to an explosion that had catastrophic results. A cloud of radiation was enveloped by the atmosphere, leaving large parts of Europe affected. Twenty-eight firemen and workers died in just the first three months from all of the radiation. It is estimated that this explosion was 400 times more radioactive than the atom bomb.

Chernobyl tourSource: Shutterstock
Source: Shutterstock

Currently, The Chernobyl Power Plant still exists in Ukraine. Although it has become a popular tourist site for those interested in the nuclear catastrophe, it is still not considered entirely safe. Radiation can permeate the area around the plant, and even with the scientific knowledge we have today, all the effects of radiation may not be known.

The black fungi that have recently been discovered indicate that although radiation is toxic and can be lethal, other living organisms may be able to survive off its sustenance. 

With the advancement of new science and technology, black fungi may be a huge step forward when learning how to help cancer patients and those who have been exposed to radiation.

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