Chernobyl’s traces to be cleaned

Chernobyl’s traces to be cleaned
Updated 20 April 2016

Chernobyl’s traces to be cleaned

Chernobyl’s traces to be cleaned

CHERNOBYL NUCLEAR POWER STATION, Ukraine: Thirty years after the world’s worst nuclear accident, the Chernobyl power plant is surrounded by both desolation and clangorous activity, the sense of a ruined past and a difficult future.
The plant is derelict. After the No. 4 reactor exploded in the early-morning hours of April 26, 1986, its other reactors were gradually taken out of service and the sprawling complex hasn’t produced a watt of electricity since 2000. Just a few hundred meters (yards) away from the hulk, hundreds of workers labor to construct a vast and remarkable structure that is to be the first step in removing the tons of radioactive waste that remain.
The 2-billion-euro ($2.3 billion) New Safe Confinement project, funded by international donations and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, is a race against time — though, unsettlingly, how much time can’t be known. After the explosion and the fire that spewed a cloud of fallout over much of northern Europe, Soviet workers constructed a so-called sarcophagus over the reactor building, a concrete and steel structure aimed at keeping waste from escaping into the atmosphere.
The rush-job construction, completed in just five months, was designed to last only about 30 years and has shown signs of serious deterioration.
When the new structure, which resembles a 30-story Quonset hut, is finished, it is to be slowly moved on rails over the sarcophagus and reactor building. After that, robotic machinery inside the structure will begin dismantling the sarcophagus and the destroyed reactor and gather up the wastes to be transported to a nearby storage facility. Under current plans, that process is expected to begin in 2017.
“The arch is now at its full height, full width and full length — 108 meters (354 feet) tall, 250 meters wide and 150 meters long. It will act as a safe confinement over the No. 4 reactor, and it’s planned to last 100 years ... to give Ukraine a chance to dismantle the No. 4 reactor and make it safe forever,” said David Driscoll, director of safety for the French consortium Novarka that is building the shelter.
Not far away from the shelter project, the growl of heavy vehicles and the clatter of construction tools fade in the silence enveloping the ghost town of Pripyat.