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article imageChernobyl cap is now casualty of Ukraine crisis

By Karen Graham     Apr 10, 2014 in Politics
Because of the ongoing crisis in Ukraine, work on a permanent containment structure for the Chernobyl Reactor 4 site, due to be finished by 2015, has been halted. This critical work is considered a top priority, not only for Ukraine, but for Europe.
Today, the political and economic crisis facing Ukraine has brought work on the New Safe Confinement (NSC) cap to a screeching halt. Finishing the $2.1 billion construction project, due to be completed by 2015, requires money and financial backing, and right now, the picture in not real clear. Ukraine is broke, and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is not looking too pleased at any future prospects for financial help.
Vince Novak, director of nuclear safety with EBRD was interviewed by Nuclear Engineering magazine. Novak said, “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.” Novak was forthcoming in saying that money was not the only issue, telling “It [the delay] has been largely driven by the finalization design and to a certain extent the design of the auxiliary system.”
Pripyat - School. View from the class to school playground full of trees. They are growing from conc...
Pripyat - School. View from the class to school playground full of trees. They are growing from concrete and asphalt. Photo taken: June 12, 2010.
Roman Harak
The first half of the NSC cap is completed and is being held in a waiting area. The second half of the arch cover is on hold. Activists and experts in the nuclear field are very concerned that any more time be lost in getting the cover completed. “Delay of the project should end immediately,” Roksolana Stojko-Lozynskyj, of the Ukrainian Congress Committee, told “It ecologically vital to the region and should go on regardless of what is currently happening. It’s not only a matter of safety for Ukraine but for Europe as a whole.”
The first sarcophagus was hastily built starting on May 26, 1986, just one month to the day after the initial disaster took place, and took just 206 days to complete. More than 400,000 metric tons of concrete and 7,300 tons of the metal framework were used to seal Reactor 4. But the seams were not properly sealed, leading to eventual leakage of contaminated dust particles.
On December 22, 1988, Soviet scientists announced the sarcophagus would only last 20-30 years before restorative maintenance would be required. Ten years later, with some financial help from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), a conservation program was completed. This work included securing some of the roof beams within the existing structure.
The Chernobyl reactor #4 building as of 2006  including the later-built sarcophagus and elements of ...
The Chernobyl reactor #4 building as of 2006, including the later-built sarcophagus and elements of the maximum-security perimeter. Photo taken: September 18, 2006.
Carl Montgomery
Since that time, water leaking through the roof of the sarcophagus has become contaminated with radiation as it seeps through the reactor floor and into the soil. Additionally, rain-induced corrosion of the metal framework has been getting worse, threatening the structure itself. What many people don't realize is that the initial structure was built under harrowing time constraints and a very dangerous situation.
The sarcophagus is actually held up by the damaged remains of Reactor 4, and it is structurally unsound. It is estimated that up to 95% of the original radioactive inventory of Reactor 4 still remains inside the ruins of the building. Seeing that the original sarcophagus was not intended to be a permanent solution, the Ukraine government held an international competition in 1992 to find a proposal for a permanent replacement structure to contain the reactor site.
After a period of 15 years, and out of 394 entries, the French consortium Novarka with 50/50 partners Vinci Construction Grands Projets and Bouygues Travaux Publics, were contracted on Sept. 17, 2007 to build the New Safe Confinement (NSC). The winners were actually the top three entries, with a UK submission for a sliding arch approach being the best idea for protecting workers.
The $432 Euros contract was to be used for design and construction, as well as as many as 900 workers. At the time, it was expected that the project would be completed by 2015. While the date for the New Safe Confinement structure, whatever the source, was to have been completed by 2005, it has obviously encountered a number of setbacks and delays. As of 2013, it was well understood that the EBRD was in control of not only managing the containment plans, but also was overseeing the construction.
More about Chernobyl disaster, radiation damage, ukraine crisis, ebrd, Europe
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