Chernobyl reactor needs new cover

Publish date: May 6, 2004

Ukraine is seeking offers to build a replacement concrete container for a wrecked Chernobyl nuclear reactor.

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development issued an invitation for tenders for the so-called New Safe Confinement (NSC) in March.

The new shelter, an arch-shaped structure, will be assembled in a safe area near Unit 4 and then slid across the old shelter, which was built in 1986 to cover the destroyed reactor. This method aims to minimise radiation exposure for workers on the site. With a height of 100 meters and a span of 250 meters, the arch will be big enough to house the Statue of Liberty. It is designed to provide a solid containment for the remnants of the reactor for at least 100 years, and will be fitted with equipment to undertake works which may become necessary in future, such as deconstruction of parts of the old shelter. Completion is scheduled for 2008.

The tender follows talks between Hans Blix, chairman of the Chernobyl Shelter Fund Donor Assembly, and Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma in Kiev last week. The meeting, attended by ambassadors of various donor countries and representatives of the EBRD, was held to discuss some of the challenges in the implementation of the shelter plan. The shelter plan is financed through the EBRD-managed Chernobyl Shelter Fund. Twenty-eight donor governments have until now pledged more than €700 million to the fund, and a G7-led initiative is underway to raise additional funds required to complete the programme.

The programme also includes stabilisation of the existing shelter, an integrated monitoring system to survey the radiation situation, structural stability and seismic events, as well as substantial investments in waste management, site infrastructure, health, safety and radiation protection. The reactor was then encased in a concrete sarcophagus, but there have been fears it has been crumbling under the impact of radiation.