26 Mars 2016
March 25, 2016
By YU KOTSUBO/ Staff Writer
CHERNOBYL, Ukraine--The massive dome now being constructed at the stricken nuclear plant here shows the long time it takes to decommission reactors damaged in catastrophic accidents--30 years and still ongoing in this case.
The media was allowed into the plant's site March 23 under a program administered by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, which is funding the dome project.
The new shelter being constructed is needed because of the wear and tear on the concrete sarcophagus that now covers the No. 4 reactor, which exploded during the accident on April 26, 1986.
The new semicylindrical shelter will be moved, perhaps as early as the end of 2016, on rails to cover the sarcophagus to stop the further leak of radioactive materials.
Construction of the new shelter began in 2012. The vast steel structure will be 109 meters high, 257 meters wide and 162 meters long when finished. The total construction cost is estimated at 1.5 billion euros (200 billion yen, or $1.8 billion).
After the explosion at the No. 4 reactor almost 30 years ago, fires broke out and for 10 days radioactive material spewed out of the site. The radioactive level was six times higher than what was emitted from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant after the accident there five years ago in the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.
The radiation level around the Chernobyl site is still so high that the area remains designated a no-entry zone.
The new shelter is designed to withstand earthquakes and tornadoes, and the plan is to have it enclose the stricken reactor for the next century.
However, no decision has been made on specific details for decommissioning the reactors, including how to dismantle the concrete sarcophagus. Concerns have also been raised about how to fund maintenance and administration of the site.