If anything can be accurately described as a “Hot Mess,” it’s the Elephant’s Foot, an oozing pile of radioactive waste deep in the basement of failed Reactor Number 4 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. Often referred to as the deadliest object in the world, merely standing in the same room with the Elephant’s Foot for five minutes would kill you in two days.
The one way I don’t want to go is from radiation poisoning. Intense doses of these invisible rays make your cells fall apart. That’s not good. You basically slough apart from the inside out. And it hurts. Cue lots of vomiting and skin melting. The word “hemorrhage” gets thrown around a lot.
So anyways, back to the Elephant’s Foot.
When the Chernobyl plant blew its top in 1986, the nuclear reactor core got so hot that it literally melted down. It melted the steel and concrete containing it and flowed down and out of the bottom of the reactor vessel like the worst kind of lava. It pooled in the basement below as a new substance nicknamed “corium.”
When it was discovered months after the disaster, its blobby shape resembled the foot of an elephant and this unique sample of corium got its name. While no longer as hot as it was over thirty years ago, you still don’t want to visit it. Down from its peak radiation of 10,000 roentgens per hour (or how much radiation you would get from 4.5 million chest x-rays), it will still kill you if you spend over an hour with it. And it’s still melting.
Of the 600,000 “liquidators” who worked at the Chernobyl site after the disaster to contain the mess, more than 30 died within a few months of radiation poisoning. We owe a lot to all of these people for helping to contain one of the worst human-caused disasters of all time.