The Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the Ukrainian city of Pripyat suffered a steam explosion in 1986. The reactor vessel caught fire and vented radiation into the air. Dozens died from radiation poisoning, and today a large region of northern Ukraine and southeastern Belarus is off-limits to human habitation.
The existing sarcophagus—constructed immediately after the disaster—is also not going to last forever. There are risks the structure could partially collapse, which would likely cause more radiation to escape in the form of dust particles.
To prevent this problem, Ukraine began work on the the New Safe Confinement project, which is a steel sarcophagus shaped like an arch and coated in radiation-degrading polycarbonate.
Constructed in two sections, the arch will eventually rise 300 feet high
Because it’s still dangerous to be close to the Chernobyl reactor building for very long, engineers are building the arch in two sections around 600 feet to the west. On April 2, engineers finished gradually sliding the first half of the arch into a temporary waiting area between the construction site and the reactor building.
The next step is building the second half of the arch. Following that, engineers will link the two sections together and slide them over the reactor building. After some final touches integrating the arch with the existing building underneath, the reactor should be sealed for a century.
Engineers will then begin deconstructing the old reactor building with remotely-operated machines. For a visualization of the entire process, see this video below.
The arch also features air conditioning and ventilation systems to keep the pressure inside stable—which should help prevent radiation leaks. But this is proving more complex than the designers originally thought, according to Nuclear Engineering.
The good news is that the engineers don’t anticipate any short-term problems. The second arch should be finished later this year. However, once the completed arch is slid into place over the reactor building, construction crews will have to work in the presence of hazardous radiation, potentially slowing down the process.
At this rate, it probably won’t be finished until 2016 or 2017 at the earliest, instead of 2015 as planned. And as Novak pointed out, funding is running short.https://medium.com/war-is-boring/cbf4ebde2e0b