Chernobyl Sarcophagus Jeapordised by Crisis in Ukraine

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Tuesday, April 15th, 2014
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The political crisis in Ukraine is severely hampering efforts to build a new radioactive containment structure over the site of the Chernobyl nuclear meltdown.

Efforts to build an immense steel mausoleum to house the Chernobyl nuclear meltdown site are being stymied by the Ukrainian crisis, as channels of funding dry up amidst the country’s political upheaval.

Work on the New Safe Confinement arch (NSC) project first commenced in 2010, with the goal of containing the radioactive contamination produced by Chernobyl for at least a century into the future.

While the project was originally scheduled for completion by 2015, Ukrainian officials now concede that it will be impossible to meet the original timeline as a result of political turmoil, while others question whether or not construction will ever be completed.

The Ukrainian government and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development are footing the hefty $2.1 billion bill for the project. The political crisis in Ukraine has left the country starved of cash, however, while also scaring off donor nations and foreign investors.

“In our financial analysis we are of course making the working assumption that it will not receive any money from Ukraine in the near term,” said Vince Novak, director of nuclear safety at the EBRD to trade publication Nuclear Engineering.

The Chernobyl disaster occurred in 1986 within the territory of present-day Ukraine, and is considered to be the worst nuclear accident in human history, as well as one of only two maximum-rated incidents on the International Nuclear Event Scale alongside the Fukushima Daiichi meltdown of 2011.

The disaster has become a byword for the perils of nuclear power, causing elevated cancer rates and birth deformities in the region surrounding the site during the decades following the disaster.

The new NSC is intended to replace the existing Object Shelter which was hastily built in the immediate wake of the meltdown under conditions of extreme duress. The Object Shelter has only been partially successful in containing radioactive contamination produced by reactor unit 4 at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, while its concrete structure is already beginning to crumble, threatening to further exacerbate the problem.

The new container was designed and is being built by French consortium Novarka, and consists of a steel arch structure with an internal height of 92.5 metres and a distance of 12 metres between the midpoints of the upper and lower arch chords.

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The internal span of the arch is 245 metres, providing ample room for the operation of equipment within the completed shelter. The arches themselves consist of tubular steel members clad in polycarbonate, which should prevent the accumulation of radioactive particulate matter.

 

 

 

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