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Chernobyl’s New Safe Confinement

Chernobyl’s New Safe Confinement (NSC) is a design and construction project unprecedented in the history of engineering.  Never before has such a huge structure been constructed at a heavily contaminated site.

Overcoming the risks and difficulties inherent in the project required years of groundwork and preparation, as laid down in the Shelter Implementation Plan (SIP). Work on the New Safe Confinement at the site started in late 2010 and the structure was moved into position in November 2016.

Following systems installation, testing and commissioning the New Safe Confinement has now been handed over to the Ukrainian authorities and the Chernobyl Shelter Fund was closed in late 2020.

The first waste canister containing highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel from the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine has been successfully processed and will now be safely stored for at least a 100 years.

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The New Safe Confinement prevents the release of contaminated material from the present shelter and at the same time protects the structure from external impacts such as extreme weather.

The new structure is an extraordinary landmark, tall enough to house London’s St Paul’s or Paris’ Notre Dame cathedrals. To minimise the risk of workers’ exposure to radiation, it was assembled in the vicinity of the site in two halves, which were later joined and eventually slid into position.

The New Safe Confinement is 108 metres high and 162 metres long, and has a span of 257 metres and a lifetime of a minimum of 100 years.

The arch-shaped structure weighs some 36,000 tonnes. Its frame is a huge lattice construction of tubular steel members, supported by two longitudinal concrete beams.

It provides a safe working environment equipped with a heavy duty crane system for the future dismantling of the shelter and waste management.

It is strong enough to withstand a tornado and its sophisticated ventilation system eliminates the risk of corrosion, ensuring that there is no need to replace the coating and expose workers to radiation during the structure’s lifetime.

The contract for this unprecedented design and construction project was awarded to the Novarka consortium led by the French construction companies Bouygues and Vinci in 2007.

The consortium worked with local sub-contractors and others from across the world. For instance, the arch was made of structural elements designed and built in Italy. The crane system was manufactured in the US.  The arch cladding contractor was from Turkey, and lifting and sliding operations were carried out by a Dutch company.

Contracts were awarded in accordance with the EBRD’s procurement policies and rules and implemented in line with the Bank’s Environmental and Social Policy.

The New Safe Confinement is a key part of the Shelter Implementation Plan. Its construction was financed via the Chernobyl Shelter Fund, managed by the EBRD on behalf of the contributors to the Fund.