First Milestone Achieved in Chernobyl Reactor's Entombment

A steam explosion destroyed Unit 4 more than 26 years ago. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development announced the first major step to cover that reactor with a massive new structure has been completed.

Twenty-six years after a steam explosion destroyed reactor 4 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine, killing two operators initially and 28 others soon afterward, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development reports the first major step has been accomplished in creating a massive dome to encase the reactor. EBRD is the administrator of the Chernobyl Shelter Fund and is managing the project to make the site safe.

The New Safe Confinement structure will weigh about 64 million pounds.EBRD reported Nov. 27 the first lifting stage of the New Safe Confinement was completed successfully, and it posted a short video in which EBRD Director of Nuclear Safety Vince Novak said the work is on schedule to be finished by the end of 2015. "Approximately 5,000 tonnes of engineered steel elements have been assembled at the site," Novak says in the video. "It was one of the crucial points in the process to get to the point when assembly starts.

"The progress this year has been excellent," he adds. "It continues to require excellent performance by all of the parties in the project."

The New Safe Confinement structure will have a span of 257 meters, a length of 164 meters, a height of 110 meters and will weigh 29,000 tonnes (about 64 million pounds). It will be slid over a structure called the object shelter that currently covers the destroyed Unit 4. When the New Safe Confinement is in place, it will significantly reduce the risk of further radiological contamination and also will provide equipment and facilities for the long-term deconstruction of the Object Shelter and its inventory, according to the agency.

"This is a very significant milestone which is a tribute to the ongoing commitment of the international donor community and an important step towards overcoming the legacy of the accident for the people of Ukraine, Belarus, and all other countries affected by the Chernobyl catastrophe," EBRD President Sir Suma Chakrabarti said.

More than 40 countries have contributed to the Chernobyl Shelter Fund, which will spend about $2 billion in support of the Shelter Implementation Plan, about two-thirds of it being on the New Safe Confinement, EBRD reported.

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