The sliding of the New Safe Confinement into position at Chernobyl last November was a magnificent engineering achievement and the highlight of the EBRD’s near 20 year involvement in efforts to put the nuclear plant on a safe and secure long term footing.
The operation to slide the 36,000 tonne structure into place was visually stunning and generated worldwide acclaim.
However, there is a lot more to do in advance of the handover of the New Safe Confinement to the power plant’s management scheduled for the end of this November.
The first photos from inside the arch, released this week, give an eerie sense of both the scale of the facility and the ongoing work. (See the Facebook slide show below.)
All but one of the giant tilting panels on the east side of the arch have now all been lowered into place, and work continues to install the permanent bearings for the arch.
The remaining anchor beams which will attach the sealing membrane from the arch to the structure are being installed on the top of the old sarcophagus.
The sliding mechanisms remain in place but will be dismantled once Ukraine’s harsh winter is succeeded by spring.
Beyond that, the work presents challenges which, although visually less striking than shifting the world’s largest land-based structure over a destroyed nuclear reactor, are absolutely critical to ensure the facility’s long term operation.
These include finalising the installation and testing of the ventilation systems which are critical to maintain its 100 year design life.
Another challenge is completing the Integrated Control System, the structure’s life support system which will receive data inputs from over 10,000 points.
Implementing and maintaining a smooth commissioning process for the arch also promise to be central to our plans for this year.
This will involve calibrating and testing numerous systems, such as cranes, fire-fighting, dust suppression and electrical distribution which will support the Confinement operation.
It will also feature the most extensive training and handover operation ever undertaken at Chernobyl since the 1986 accident, with the goal of ensuring Chernobyl staff are ready to take over the New Safe Confinement following contract completion.
The EBRD’s Simon Evans is the head of the Chernobyl Shelter Fund