KYIV — Thirty years after nuclear disaster at Chernobyl, the world’s largest movable land-based structure was slid into place today over the nuclear ‘sarcophagus,’ confining the radioactive remains of reactor number four.
It is the centerpiece of a 20-year, $2.2 billion internationally funded containment program for the reactor remains, located two hours by car north of Kyiv.
President Petro Poroshenko joined leaders of the EBRD and French construction consortium Novarka for a ceremony celebrating final positioning of the arch. Work will continue for one more year to complete end walls of the facility, install equipment, and run tests.
The New Safe Confinement is the centerpiece of the $2.2 billion Shelter Implementation Plan developed in 1997 by Western and Ukrainian experts. It was funded through the Chernobyl Shelter Fund, managed by the European Bank for International Development (EBRD). Over 40 countries and the EBRD have contributed to the fund.
Monitoring experts say Chernobyl’s current sarcophagus, built hastily in the aftermath of the accident, has contained radioactive contamination well. But it was built as a temporary measure. Despite stabilization work, it risks collapse. The New Safe Confinement includes two automated cranes that will hang from the ceiling and deconstruct existing structures.
As costs and delays of the project increased, the EBRD faced funding gaps. As of today, the Chernobyl Shelter Fund has received close to $1.6 billion. The EBRD has additionally contributed nearly $530 million, making it the project’s largest donor.
The EBRD says it has commitments necessary to fund the remainder of the project and expects to meet the November 2017 project completion date.
Once the New Safe Confinement is complete, Ukraine will be responsible for operation and maintenance of the facility, which has an expected lifespan of at least 100 years. The structure will enable a new phase of ecological work within the Chernobyl exclusion zone.
“This is a historic step towards the improvement of environmental safety throughout the world, as well as in the Chernobyl exclusion zone. And it has only become possible thanks to immense international support,” Oleg Semerak, Ukraine’s Minister of Ecology and Natural Resources, said in a press release. “I believe that the transformation of the exclusion zone into a safe area will demonstrate the change in Ukraine’s overall environmental policy, too.”
Last week Chinese energy company GCL System Integration Technology Co. Ltd. announced a project to build a solar power plant within the exclusion zone with China National Complete Engineering Corporation.
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