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New drone footage from Chernobyl shows progress in construction of containment structure

18 December 2015

New footage from a drone flying over the site of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant shows the latest advances in securing the site of the 1986 accident. The video (see link below) focuses on the giant arch – the New Safe Confinement - that will shelter the damaged reactor upon completion in late 2017. The structure is 110 metres high, 165 metres long and 260 metres wide.

Chernobyl New Safe Confinement - Image: Novarka
Chernobyl New Safe Confinement - Image: Novarka

It is being built by the Novarka consortium, led by the French companies Vinci Construction and Bouygues Travaux Publics, which also commissioned the drone video.

Financing of the New Safe Confinement is provided by the international community and the Government of Ukraine through the Chernobyl Shelter Fund.

To date, the fund has received some €1.5 billion from 45 donor countries and organisations. The EBRD is the fund manager and the largest donor with contributions of approximately €500 million of its own funds.

The Chernobyl Shelter Implementation Plan (SIP) provides a step-by-step strategy for making the site of the 1986 nuclear accident safe.

The most prominent and – upon completion – most visible part of the Shelter Implementation Plan is arguably the New Safe Confinement. Work on the structure is progressing rapidly and the second lifting took place in May 2013. Lifting operations were completed in October 2014.

The two halves have been moved together in late 2014 and joined in mid 2015. In December 2015 the west bridge of the large crane for future dismantling activities has been lifted in place on the inside of the arch. Installation of ventilation ducts, cabling and other systems is ongoing.

When completed, the New Safe Confinement will represent an extraordinary feat of engineering, tall enough as it will be to house London’s St Paul’s or Paris’s Notre Dame cathedrals, assembled in the vicinity of the shelter and finally slid into position.

However, before work on the New Safe Confinement could start, other important projects which often laid the ground for today’s activities on the site had to be completed.

Given the extremely dangerous conditions that prevailed in the immediate aftermath of the 1986 accident, the shelter housing the destroyed unit 4 was an extraordinary achievement.

But the speed with which it was put together, the levels of high radiation that dogged the work, the lack of any proper design or documentation for the shelter and doubts about its structural soundness meant that it could never have been a long term solution to the risks at the site.

The first phase of carrying out the Shelter Implementation Plan, which was funded by the United States and the European Union and drafted by Ukrainian and international experts in 1997, focused on preparation and engineering work.

This period also saw the completion of crucial infrastructure projects, roads, utilities, warehouses and the provision of radioactive waste management equipment.

One of the early priorities was to assess the state of the existing shelter and minimise the risk of its collapse. Critical stabilisation work inside and outside the sarcophagus took place amidst high radiation and risk of collapse and required very careful planning.

Until the shelter finally disappears from view beneath the New Safe Confinement, the most visible landmarks of the work so far are two huge steel structures stabilising the western wall of the old shelter and taking 80 per cent of the roof's load. This very hazardous project was successfully completed in 2008.

Another important milestone was the installation of a system which integrates radiation data, information on the structural integrity of the old shelter, measurements of seismic activities and other parameters important for the safety on site and for the future operation of the New Safe Confinement.

Safety for workers is a high priority. A new, state-of-the-art changing facility with a capacity for 1,430 workers has been built which offers medical and radiation protection facilities and an ambulance.

In addition, the Chernobyl Shelter Fund provides training facilities, radiation monitoring and medical equipment as well as a medical screening programme.

Day-to-day work on the Shelter Implementation Plan at the Chernobyl site is overseen by the Project Management Unit (PMU), with experts from Bechtel, Battelle Memorial Institute and the staff of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.

The entire Shelter Implementation Plan is expected to cost in excess of €2 billion and to be completed by 2017. It is funded by contributions from more than 40 countries and organisations.

The EBRD to date has provided €675 million of its own resources to support Chernobyl projects including the New Safe Confinement.


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