Skip to main content

Why are the billionaires always laughing?

Because they know the corporate media will never call bullshit on their bullshit.

Why are the billionaires laughing?

It’s easy to laugh when the corporate press treats you as a glorious success instead of the epitome of a broken social order. They laugh because they know the corporate media prefers to fawn over them rather than hold them to account.

Today, we ask you to support our nonprofit journalism because we are not impressed by billionaires flying into space, their corporations despoiling our health and planet, or their vast fortunes safely concealed in tax havens across the globe. We are not laughing.

We are hard at work digging out the truth. Please support this independent journalism today by donating to our critical Fall Campaign. We cannot do it without you. Thank you. -- Craig Brown, Co-founder

Support Our Work -- Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Every donation—large or small—helps us bring you the news that matters.

The New Safe Confinement arch over what was once Reactor Four at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine is the world's largest mobile steel structure. (Photo: Clay Gilliland/Flickr/cc)

The New Safe Confinement arch over what was once Reactor Four at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine is the world's largest mobile steel structure. (Photo: Clay Gilliland/Flickr/cc)

Chernobyl Radiation Surge 'Cause for Concern,' Say Scientists

One nuclear scientist said the situation is "like the embers in a barbecue pit." 

Brett Wilkins

Scientists monitoring the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in northern Ukraine are detecting increased fission reactions inside an inaccessible chamber built around the radioactive ruins of a reactor that suffered a catastrophic meltdown in 1986—and they aren't sure why. 

"There are many uncertainties, but we can't rule out the possibility of [an] accident."
—Maxim Saveliev, ISPNPP

New Scientist reported this week that since 2016, researchers have detected a 40% surge in neutron emissions from a sealed room containing large amounts of corium, a highly radioactive and hardened lava-like material containing much of the uranium fuel from Reactor Four of the Vladimir Ilyich Lenin Nuclear Power Plant, the site of history's worst nuclear disaster. 

Scientists say the increased emissions are indicative of a growing nuclear fission reaction, but they don't know whether the surge will burn itself out, as has previously occurred in other parts of the former plant, or if further intervention might be necessary. 

"There are many uncertainties, but we can't rule out the possibility of [an] accident," Maxim Saveliev of Ukraine's Institute for Safety Problems of Nuclear Power Plants (ISPNPP) told Science earlier this month. 

Saveliev said that neutron levels are rising slowly enough that scientists should have a few years left to determine how to best address a threat that Neil Hyatt, a nuclear chemist at the University of Sheffield in Britain, desribed as "like the embers in a barbecue pit." 

Hyatt told Science that the threat cannot be ignored because the rainwater that collected inside the damaged reactor due to flaws in the sarcophagus hastily built to entomb it in the months immediately after the disaster is now receding following the construction of the New Safe Confinement (NSC). This massive steel arch, completed in 2019, is the world's largest mobile steel structure. It covers the damaged reactor and is designed to prevent further radioactive leaks. 

However, water slows neutrons, and as NSC does its job and water levels inside the structure continue to fall, scientists fear that the fission reaction will accelerate "exponentially," according to Hyatt, causing "an uncontrolled release of nuclear energy."

Hyatt told New Scientist that the situation is "cause for concern but not alarm," adding that additional acceleration in neutron production could require further intervention. 

ISPNPP says it believes the risk of a catastrophic containment failure in the near future is low, and that it is working on ways to diagnose and address the cause of the surging fissile emissions. One possible solution involves deploying a robot that can drill holes in the hardened radioactive material and then insert boron cylinders to absorb neutrons like control rods do in a normally functioning nuclear reactor. 

The April 26, 1986 explosion at Reactor Four—the result of a flawed reactor design and inadequately trained personnel—caused widespread ecological devastation, considerable loss of life, and sand rendered a 1,000-square mile area around the town of Pripyat in what was then the Soviet Union unihabitable for all but a handful of human beings who returned to their homes despite the risk. 

The massive containment and cleanup effort following the meltdown cost tens of billions of dollars and won't be completed until the latter half of this century. 


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Schumer Endorses 'Inspiring Community Leader' India Walton as Buffalo's Next Mayor

The U.S. Senate majority leader's move comes as some key New York Democrats refuse to back the democratic socialist.

Jessica Corbett ·


'Who Will You Throw Overboard?' Manchin Targeted for Trying to Sink Democratic Agenda

West Virginians gathered at the senator's yacht to demand that he stop blocking the "popular and needed" Build Back Better package.

Jessica Corbett ·


'We Shouldn't Do It at All': Manchin Admits He's the Enemy of Democrats' Ambitions

The right-wing West Virginia Democrat and fossil fuel investor has previously confessed his intent to quash his own party's sweeping $3.5 trillion Build Back Better package.

Brett Wilkins ·


After Getting 'Stealth Bailout' During Pandemic, US Corporations Try to Kill Proposed Tax Hikes

"When it's time to finally put workers first, big businesses are spending millions to maintain their advantage and preserve the status quo," said Kyle Herrig of Accountable.US.

Jessica Corbett ·


'Disgraceful': Just 9 Republicans Join With Dems to Hold Steve Bannon in Criminal Contempt

The vote "reveals just how far the Republican Party has fallen" since Trump took control as GOP's de facto leader, said one pro-democracy advocate.

Jon Queally ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo