Nu­clear cover up: Chernobyl’s gi­ant dome

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

The new metal dome en­cas­ing Ukraine’s in­fa­mous Chernobyl nu­clear power plant con­tains enough metal to build three Eif­fel Tow­ers with a few thou­sand tons to spare.

At 108 me­ters it is taller than the Statue of Lib­erty and is de­signed to con­tain the power plant’s danger­ous ra­dioac­tiv­ity while pro­tect­ing the plant from cli­mac­tic events for the next cen­tury.

The gi­ant dome was fit­ted 20 years af­ter Chernobyl re­ac­tor num­ber four ex­ploded on April 26, 1986, spew­ing poi­sonous ra­di­a­tion over large parts of Europe, par­tic­u­larly Ukraine, Be­larus and Rus­sia.

The Euro­pean Bank for Re­con­struc­tion and De­vel­op­ment (EBRD) is lead­ing the 2.1 bil­lion euro (2.2 bil­lion dol­lars) project, with con­tri­bu­tions from around 40 coun­tries. The metal dome, built in Italy, rests on a foun­da­tion of rec­tan­gu­lar con­crete beams and weighs 36,000 tons, three and a half times the weight of the iconic Eif­fel Tower in Paris.

Many ‘liq­uida­tors died’

The 162-me­tre-long 30-storey high struc­ture now cov­ers an orig­i­nal sar­coph­a­gus hur­riedly put in place by Soviet work­ers known as “liq­uida­tors”, af­ter the worst nu­clear ac­ci­dent in his­tory.

Over 600,000 “liq­uida­tors” were sent to the scene of the ac­ci­dent with lit­tle or no pro­tec­tion over four years. Many died at­tempt­ing to ex­tin­guish the ini­tial fire, iso­late the de­stroyed re­ac­tor un­der con­crete and clean up the sur­round­ing area.

The new cas­ing has two ob­jec­tives: “to con­tain the ra­dioac­tive dust and to al­low the fu­ture dis­man­tling of the dam­aged re­ac­tor as well as the re­pro­cess­ing of the 200 tons of highly ra­dioac­tive magma from the old sar­coph­a­gus” which has reached the end of its use­ful life, said the project’s di­rec­tor, Ni­co­las Caille.

Caille, who works for No­varka, the joint ven­ture by French con­struc­tion firms VINCI and Bouygues which built the dome, hailed it as “a feat of engi­neer­ing that will en­sure op­ti­mal safety con­di­tions for the Ukrainian peo­ple for the next 100 years.”

The struc­ture has equip­ment and fa­cil­i­ties to al­low the re­ac­tor to be dis­man­tled while lim­it­ing the need for hu­man in­ter­ven­tion, as the dome will be sealed off her­met­i­cally, ac­cord­ing to No­varka. The ven­ti­la­tion sys­tem con­trols the at­mos­phere in­side, reg­u­lat­ing the tem­per­a­ture and hu­mid­ity lev­els.

The equip­ment is now due to be tested and com­pleted be­fore a han­dover to Chernobyl nu­clear au­thor­i­ties ex­pected in Novem­ber 2017. —AFP

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