THE radioactive remains of Chernobyl’s stricken nuclear plant have finally been sealed off after engineers finished sliding a giant arch over its melted-down reactor.
The €1.5bn (US$1.59bn) enclosure – described as the largest moveable land-based structure ever built – is tall enough to house London’s St Paul’s Cathedral. It was slid into place yesterday, completing a 327 m journey from where its construction began four years ago. It is the first time the plant’s destroyed reactor 4 has been safely enclosed since it melted down in 1986.
The arched structure – known as The New Safe Confinement – has a height of 108 m, a length of 162 m, a span measuring 257 m, and weighs 36,000 t. It was made in two halves that were joined in 2015. Formed from a lattice of steel tubes and supported by two concrete beams, the structure is strong enough to withstand a tornado and has a ventilation system designed to prevent corrosion so that there is no need to replace the coating during its minimum lifespan of 100 years.
The structure will be hermetically sealed off from the environment and connected to a building that will serve as its control room for future operations inside the arch. It is equipped with heavy duty cranes that will help with nuclear waste management operations and efforts to dismantle the original shelter that was hastily put over the reactor after it melted down.
Following intensive testing of the equipment and commissioning, operations are set to be handed over to the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant administration in November next year.
The structure was built by Novarka – a consortium made up of French construction companies VINCI and Bouygues.
Novarka project director Nicolas Caille said: “We are very proud to have been able to actively contribute to meeting this one-of-a-kind technological challenge. The New Safe Confinement in Chernobyl is a feat of engineering that will ensure optimal safety conditions for the Ukrainian people for the next 100 years.”
Igor Gramotkin, director-general of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, said: “We were not building this arch for ourselves. We were building it for our children, for our grandchildren and for our great-grandchildren. This is our contribution to the future, in line with our responsibility for those who will come after us.”
The arch is part of a wider €2.1bn programme established in 1997 and managed by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).
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