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Damaged Chernobyl reactor covered 33 years after nuclear disaster

VIDEO: Bechtel says damaged reactor has been covered 33 years after tragedy struck Ukraine's 'ghost' town of Pripyat

Chernobyl's damaged reactor has been covered.
Chernobyl's damaged reactor has been covered.

The New Safe Confinement arch that was built to restrict radioactive emissions from the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant – located near the now-abandoned town of Pripyat, in northern Ukraine, where a historic, ghastly nuclear accident occurred on 25-26 April, 1986 – has been completely placed over the plant’s damaged reactor, American engineering, construction, and project management company Bechtel said.

Reactor No 4 of Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant melted down in 1986, following which a concrete covering was “hastily built” over the structure. It later developed cracks and “became unstable”, which led to the development of the $1.3bn arch.

The arch weighs 36,287 tonnes, and comprises 80 elements held together with 600,000 bolts. The structure is 105m tall, 164.6m long, and spans 256m.

The Reston, Virginia-headquartered Bechtel led the consortium that designed the arch that was first lifted onto the reactor in 2016.

In the years since, various crews have “added walls to both ends of the arch and installed equipment to allow future dismantling of the damaged building and reactor with remote-operated cranes and tools”, Bechtel said in a statement.

A Bechtel-led consortium designed the arch [image: Bechtel].

Touted by the firm as the largest movable land structure built in the world, Bechtel said the arch can cover “several Statues of Liberty”. Bechtel worked with State Specialised Enterprise – Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant on the project, with French consortium Novarka building the arch, and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development financing the Chernobyl arch, alongside 40 donor nations.

Commenting on the project, Bechtel’s project manager for the Chernobyl site, Oscar McNeil, said: “With construction and testing complete, we will soon turn over the facility and all systems to the plant operators.

“It’s an accomplishment that required international cooperation and ingenuity to overcome the challenges presented by radiation and the environment around the plant, not the mention the Ukrainian winters.”

The arch at Chernobyl weighs close to 40,000 t [image: Bechtel].

Progress on Chernobyl came a month after Bechtel reached a milestone on Units 3 and 4 of Plant Vogtle in Georgia – the only nuclear plant under construction in the US as of March 2019 – which will be the country’s largest generator of carbon-free electricity when it is complete.

Plant Vogtle’s dome – which has a diameter of 39.6m – was lifted into place during a 90-minute operation. The ceremony was attended by US Secretary of Energy, Rick Perry, and Governor of Georgia, Brian Kemp, among other dignitaries. 

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Construction Week - Issue 746
Jul 20, 2019