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The explosion of unit 4 of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in the early hours of 26 April 1986 was the biggest accident in the history of nuclear power generation. Under extremely hazardous conditions a steel and concrete structure was built hastily immediately after the accident.
This shelter was always intended as a temporary measure until a more permanent solution would be possible. Stabilisation measures have eliminated the risk of the shelter’s collapse. Today, the conditions are in place to transform Chernobyl into an environmentally safe state with the construction of the New Safe Confinement.
The second remaining major technical task at Chernobyl today is the finalisation of the construction of the Spent Fuel Storage Facility which is needed for the decommissioning of the spent fuels from units 1-3, the last of which was shut down at the end of 2000.
Ukraine and the international community have continuously worked together to overcome the legacy of the Chernobyl accident and prepare the decommissioning of the site.
After the first safety and decommissioning works at units 1-3 which started in 1995 and were funded by the EBRD-managed Nuclear Safety Account, agreement was reached in May 1997 between the G7, EU and Ukraine on the Shelter Implementation Plan. Later in the same year the Chernobyl Shelter Fund was established with the EBRD as fund manager.
The plan devises a step-by-step strategy. It outlines a course of action to accomplish 5 objectives and identified 22 primary tasks which were further divided into 297 activities.
Today most of these activities have been implemented and have created the condition for the construction of the New Safe Confinement. This covers every aspect from the creation of the necessary infrastructure on the site to the best-possible workers’ protection through modern facilities and health and safety provisions according to international best practice.
The Shelter Implementation Plan is financed through the Chernobyl Shelter Fund. As of end-2010 the Fund has received a total amount of €990 million. The EBRD acts as the fund manager and works closely together with the Government of Ukraine to help ensure that the project is implemented efficiently. After review the Bank enters into grant agreements with the recipient organisation and disburses funds to contractors.
The highest decision-making body of the Fund is the Assembly of Contributors, comprising representatives of 23 countries and the European Commission.
Work on the Spent Fuel Storage Facility is financed through the Nuclear Safety Account. In Chernobyl, the fund has funded security and safety measures and two decommissioning facilities. The plant to treat liquid radioactive waste from units 1-3 is now complete and the spent fuel storage facility currently is under construction.
To-date, the Nuclear Safety Account has received about €320 million in contributions from its donors comprising 16 countries plus the European Commission.
The New Safe Confinement will transform Chernobyl into an environmentally safe state. The new structure will enclose the damaged reactor 4 and contain the radioactive inventory of the shelter which was erected under extremely hazardous conditions after the 1986 accident. It will prevent the intrusion of water and snow and the dispersion if contaminated dust and provide cranes and equipment for the eventual deconstruction of the existing structures.
For that purpose the New Safe Confinement will be equipped with two cranes with a lifting capacity of 50 tons each. Dismantled shelter components can be laid down or processed inside the New Safe Confinement. It will be able to operate for at least 100 years.
The contract for design and construction of the New Safe Confinement was signed in September 2007 with the consortium Novarka, formed by the construction companies
Bouygues and Vinci. Work on the detailed design of the structure and its systems such as cranes, fire protection and ventilation is completed.
The arch frame is a huge lattice construction of tubular steel members built on two longitudinal concrete beams. In order to reduce radiological exposure to the workforce, the arch will be assembled 250 metres to the west of the destroyed reactor and eventually slid into position over the existing sarcophagus.
Clearance of the assembly site right next to the shelter and excavation work for the foundations in this contaminated area have been completed. Piling for the foundations and the lifting cranes started in September 2010.
The Spent Fuel Storage Facility will provide a long-term storage for the more than 20,000 spent fuel assemblies from the Chernobyl units 1, 2 and 3. The completion of the facility is a precondition for the safe and secure decommissioning of Chernobyl. The project will use existing concrete storage modules and a building for the processing of the assemblies. Processing will include cutting, drying and fitting of spent fuel into storage containers.
Spent fuel is currently stored at the site in an interim wet storage facility constructed in Soviet times (ISF‑1) and in pools in the units. This facility does not conform to modern standards and it appears unlikely that its current licence would be extended when it expires in 2016.
The contract to design and complete the facility was signed with the American company Holtec International in September 2007. The design of the new facility was approved by the Ukrainian regulator in 2010 and the Assembly of Contributors agreed to start implementation in October 2010. The contract amendment for the completion of the facility was signed in February 2011.
Last updated 2 February 2011
Arch span: 257m
Length covered: 150m
Metal framework: 29,000 t
Life expectancy of the confinement: 100 years