Chernobyl news: Fungi discovered in nuclear reactor which EATS radiation - Express.co.uk
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- 10 February 2020 --
Chernobyl’s nuclear reactor exploded in Ukraine on April 26, 1986, killed 31 people and resulted in the mass evacuation and abandonment of a huge area and led to an evacuation of 50,000 people. The disaster prompted the second most expensive nuclear clean up in human history, costing £39billion.
However, scientists are now discovering a light in the catastrophe, after finding a strand of fungi which could help protect humans from radiation.
The fungi was discovered in 1991, five years after the disaster, and experts have now discovered that it feeds on radiation, leaving them stunned.
The fungi, named Cryptococcus neoformans fungi, contains large amounts of melanin – a pigment found in skin which turns it dark.
The copious melanin levels absorb the harmful radiation, turning it into chemical energy, in the same way plants convert carbon dioxide and chlorophyll into oxygen and glucose via photosynthesis.
Chernobyl news: Fungi discovered in nuclear reactor which EATS radiation (Image: GETTY)
It is a process known as radiosynthesis and scientists believe it could be used to benefit humans.
Scientists from NASA believe they may be able to extract the power of radiosynthesis from the fungi and use it to create a Sun cream which protects against the Sun’s rays.
Another possible use for the fungi strand would be to store energy, with experts believing it could be a biological alternative to solar panels.
Kasthuri Venkateswaran, the lead scientist, also believes it could benefit cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy and protect engineers in nuclear power plants.
The research team state on their forum: “The fungi that grow in there (Chernobyl reactor) are radiotrophic fungi, that are rich in melanin.
“Melanin absorbs radiation and converts it into other forms of energy (including electric).
“My research is into the use of melanin in conjunction with water to convert electromagnetic radiation into electrical energy.
“This technology will probably find its place in biotechnology as it is non toxic and biocompatible.”
To this day, a 19-mile exclusion zone remains in place, with authorities estimating the area will not be officially safe for human inhabitation for hundreds of years due to the huge amounts of radioactivity being released.
The area in Ukraine is still a no-go zone due to the vast amount of radiation still present.
A UN study has predicted the eventual death toll caused by cancers related to the blast and other illnesses will reach 4,000.
The nuclear accident even affected the ecosystem and food chain, with domestically-sourced wild boar meat causing concern due to the now-radioactive mushrooms the animals eat.