Chernobyl’s New Safe Confinement passes key milestone

By Axel  Reiserer

Chernobyl’s New Safe Confinement passes key milestone

Two halves of giant structure now joined together

The construction of the New Safe Confinement at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant has taken an important step forward with the joining together of the two halves of the giant structure.

The operation to slide the two arches together required 24 precise connections on the 36,000 tonne structure to be aligned within millimetres of each other across the full 257-metre arch span. Operation “skid back” was successfully completed within a day and work is now focusing on adjusting and tightening nearly 1,000 bolts to seal the two halves together.

“This is another major step forward”, said Vince Novak, EBRD Director, Nuclear Safety. “The construction of the New Safe Confinement steel structure is nearing completion and good progress is also being made on fitting the steel frame with the auxiliary systems and equipment essential for operation of the facility and deconstruction of reactor 4. We are confident that all work will be concluded by end-2017 as planned.”

The New Safe Confinement is being constructed to seal off reactor 4, which was destroyed in the 1986 nuclear accident at Chernobyl. The giant steel structure with a height of 108 metres, length of 162 metres and an arch span of 257 metres will protect the environment from radiation releases and provide the infrastructure to support the deconstruction of the shelter and nuclear waste management operations.

Because of its enormous dimensions the arch has been built in two halves which now have been joined together. Remaining tasks include the installation of a sophisticated ventilation system which will keep the structure corrosion-free during its lifespan of 100 years, the construction of a technological building as the future control centre and fitting the arch with fully-automated cranes, tools for deconstruction and other auxiliary systems.

The New Safe Confinement is being constructed by the international consortium Novarka, led by the French companies Vinci Construction and Bouygues Travaux Publics. The New Safe Confinement is being financed by the Chernobyl Shelter Fund and the EBRD. To date, the fund has received some € 1.5 billion from 45 donor countries and organisations. The EBRD is supporting the New Safe Confinement project with approximately €500 million of its own funds.