The damage caused by the 1986 explosion and fire at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the former Soviet Union was far worse than was reported, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology researcher has concluded.
In a 500-page doctoral dissertation, researcher Alexander Sich concludes that the explosion, considered the worst nuclear accident in history, caused a complete core meltdown.Sich, who studied the ruins of the plant for 18 months, also said the accident released four to five times as much radiation as was officially reported, and efforts to seal the site in a concrete tomb have failed.
The dissertation is to be submitted to the MIT nuclear engineering department soon, the Boston Sunday Globe reported.
Sich's research did contain some good news. It found that the explosion did not create a "China Syndrome" effect that many nuclear power critics had feared.
The term refers to an event in which a runaway nuclear power plant core burns through the reactor vessel and concrete containment structures into the earth, causing massive contamination of ground water and setting off a huge steam explosion.
Sich found that the core had turned into a molten lavalike material that burned through the reactor vessel but not the plant's concrete floor. He said the reaction burned itself out in about 10 days, the Globe reported.