New Safe Confinement is a large metal structure measuring 108 metres in length, 250 metres in width and 150 metres long

New Safe Confinement project aims to clean up Chernobyl

A construction project named New Safe Confinement is underway near Chernobyl, Ukraine, promising to remove the remaining radioactive waste and eventually make the area habitable again.

The thirtieth anniversary of the Chernobyl Nuclear Plant disaster, which saw one of its reactors explode in the early morning hours of April 26 1986, is approaching in the next few days.

The plant’s other reactors were gradually taken out of service and the sprawling complex has not produced any electricity since 2000.

After the initial explosion and the fire that spewed a cloud of fallout over much of northern Europe, Soviet workers hurriedly constructed a ‘sarcophagus’ over the reactor building, a concrete and steel structure aimed at keeping waste from escaping into the atmosphere.

The construction job, which was completed in just five months and designed to last only 30 years, is now showing signs of serious deterioration.

New Safe Confinement is a two billion-euro (£1.5bn) project funded by international donations and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development that aims to rectify this.

The new structure, which resembles a 30-storey corrugated metal hut, is being constructed that will be slowly moved on rails over the sarcophagus and reactor building.

After it has been installed, 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 metres tall, 250 metres wide and 150 metres long," said David Driscoll, director of safety for the French consortium Novarka, which is building the shelter.

"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."

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.

Four kilometres from the power plant, Pripyat was originally built for the plant's workers. Opened in 1970, it was a model of the Soviet ideal, orderly blocks of soaring apartment towers, the focal point a large plaza flanked by a sizeable hotel and the Energetik Palace of Culture.

The 50,000 people who once lived there were hastily evacuated after the explosion although some have since returned to occupy their old homes despite the health hazards.

The Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan, which was severely damaged during a tsunami in 2011, is also being cleaned up by specially designed robots which are locating and removing the exposed nuclear material. However, many have been destroyed when they get close to the very material they are trying to remove.

Recent articles

Info Message

Our sites use cookies to support some functionality, and to collect anonymous user data.

Learn more about IET cookies and how to control them