International experts voice concerns over Chernobyl reactor casing

Publish date: September 22, 2005

Structural components of the sarcophagus housing the remains of Chernobyl's nuclear plant's fourth reactor are damaged, and are in danger of breaking and releasing radioactive matter, the Chernobyl Forum said in Ukrainian newspaper Segodnya in the beginning of September.

The Chernobyl Forum includes eight UN agencies, the World Bank, Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine.

However, the press service of the Ukrainian Emergencies Ministry said the current casing will remain safe long enough for a new “arch” to be built over the sarcophagus. The new shelter will be in the form of an arch, 100 meters high and 250 meters wide. It will be assembled at a safe place near the reactor, and then mounted over the old casing. A tender will be held for the construction of the shelter at the end of November, the press service said. Work will then begin work on the shelter’s construction, involving 3,000 specialists.

The Chernobyl Shelter Fund, run by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, hopes to raise more than $1 billion for the project. Some 28 foreign governments have already pledged to contribute more than $750m.

Chernobyl’s number-four reactor, in what was then the Soviet Union and is now Ukraine, exploded on April 26, 1986, sending a radioactive cloud across Europe. Following the disaster, a concrete sarcophagus was built over the stricken reactor but the new 20,000-tonne steel case will cover the whole plant. EBRD officials hope that construction of the gigantic steel shelter will be completed by 2008/2009.