- Title: Giant arch blocking Chernobyl radiation nearly in place - EBRD
- Date: 28th November 2016
- Summary: CHERNOBYL NUCLEAR POWER PLANT, UKRAINE (FILE - MARCH 23, 2016) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF EXTERIOR OF THE FOURTH REACTOR OF CHERNOBYL NUCLEAR POWER PLANT SIGN READING (Russian/English): 'WORK EXECUTION AREA FOR ARCH ASSEMBLY' VARIOUS OF WORK IN PROGRESS IN ASSEMBLY AREA VARIOUS VIEWS OF ARCH
- Embargoed: 13th December 2016 10:12
- Keywords: Chernobyl nuclear power plant nuclear accident disaster EBRD New Safe Confinement
- Location: KIEV AND CHERNOBYL, UKRAINE
- City: KIEV AND CHERNOBYL, UKRAINE
- Country: Ukraine
- Topics: Disaster/Accidents
- Reuters ID: LVA0075ACXNBB
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: EDITORS PLEASE NOTE: THIS EDIT CONTAINS MATERIAL WHICH WAS ORIGINALLY 4:3 / BLACK AND WHITE VIDEO
In the middle of a vast exclusion zone in northern Ukraine, the world's largest land-based moving structure is set to be unveiled on Tuesday (November 29) which will prevent deadly radiation spewing from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster site for the next 100 years.
The New Safe Confinement will prevent the release of contaminated material from the present shelter and protect the structure from external impacts such as extreme weather, according to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), which has managed the funding of the arch.
The new structure, which weighs some 36,000 tonnes, is tall enough to house London's St Paul's or Paris' Notre Dame cathedrals. It is 108 metres high and 162 metres long, and has a span of 257 metres.
Vince Novak, the Nuclear Safety Director of EBRD says the design and construction project is unprecedented in the history of engineering.
"It's one of the most important projects ever done. People in Ukraine and not only Ukraine - across Europe and large parts of the world - still remember the 1986 accident and the moment which we eagerly await - the confirmation that the New Safe Confinement has finally reached its last final position over the old shelter built in 1986 will be huge news and not only for people of Ukraine, for people of Europe, people of the world. It's a huge technological achievement," he told Reuters on Monday (November 28).
To minimise the risk exposure to radiation to the workers the structure was assembled in the vicinity of the site and is now in the final stages of being slid into position, EBRD said.
Its frame is a huge lattice construction of tubular steel members, that are supported by two longitudinal concrete beams.
On April 26, 1986, a botched test at the Soviet nuclear plant sent clouds of smouldering nuclear material across large swathes of Europe, forced over 50,000 people to evacuate and poisoned unknown numbers of workers involved in its clean-up.
A concrete sarcophagus was hastily built over the site of the stricken reactor to contain the worst of the radiation, but a more permanent solution has been in the works since late 2010.
The 'New Safe Confinement' arch is designed to create a steel-clad casement to block radiation and allow the remains of the reactor to be dismantled safely.
"We have done, as you know, huge stabilisation of the shelter, which was completed in 2008, that has been a huge difference. So probability of collapse has been significantly reduced. But now with the New Safe Confinement even if this happens, nothing will leak out in the environment. Yes, it will create a mess within the New Safe Confinement, nobody wants this to happen. And this is why part of the strategy is this early de-construction of the most unstable part," said Novak.
Funding of the arch has cost around 1.5 billion euros ($1.7 billion) to build and involved donations from more than 40 governments.
"This has been the most controlled project I've seen in my entire career, controlled by professional managers, controlled by auditors, including financial auditors and through a full-time engagement of our team," said Novak.
Even with the new structure, the surrounding zone, which at 2,600 square kilometres (1,000 square miles) is roughly the size of Luxembourg, will remain largely uninhabitable and closed to unsanctioned visitors.
The official short-term death toll from the accident was 31 but many more people died of radiation-related illnesses such as cancer. The total death toll and long-term health effects remain a subject of intense debate.
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