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Ukraine Moves Giant New Safety Dome Over Chernobyl

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The gigantic arch soars 108 metres (355 feet)
into the sky — making it taller than New York’s
Statue of Liberty — while its weight of 36,000
tons is three times heavier than the Eiffel Tower
in Paris.
The 2.1-billion-euro ($2.2-billion) structure
sponsored by the European Bank for
Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has
been edged into place over an existing crumbling
dome that the Soviets built in haste when
disaster struck three decades ago.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko was visibly
proud at his impoverished and war-torn country’s
ability to deal with one of the worst vestiges of
its Soviet past.
“Many people had doubts and refused to believe that
this was possible, ” Poroshenko told the festive
ceremony held in front of the gleaming new
dome.
“But my friends, I congratulate you — yes, we did
it!”
‘Super-human efforts’
Radioactive fallout from the site of the world’s
worst civil nuclear accident spread across three-
quarters of Europe and prompted a global
rethink about the safety of atomic fuel.
Work on the previous dome began after a 10-day
fire caused by the explosion was contained but
radiation still spewed out of the stricken reactor.
“It was done through the super-human efforts of
thousands of ordinary people, ” the Chernobyl
museum’s deputy chief Anna Korolevska told
AFP.
“What kind of protective gear could they have
possibly had? They worked in regular
construction clothes.”
About 30 of the cleanup workers known as
liquidators were killed on site or died from
overwhelming radiation poisoning in the following
weeks.
The Soviets sought to try to cover up the
accident that was caused by errors during an
experimental safety check and its eventual toll is
still hotly disputed.
The United Nations estimated in 2005 that
around 4,000 people had either been killed or
were left dying from cancer and other related
diseases.
But the Greenpeace environmental protection
group believes the figure may be closer to
100,000.
Authorities maintain a 30-kilometre-wide (19-
mile) exclusion zone around the plant in which
only a few dozen elderly people live.
30-year lifespan
One of the main problems of the Soviet-era
response was the fact that it only had a 30-year
lifespan.
Yet its deterioration began much sooner than
that.
“Radioactive dust inside the structure is being
blown out through the cracks,” Sergiy Paskevych
of Ukraine’s Institute of Nuclear Power Plant
Safety Problems told AFP.
Paskevych added that the existing structure
could crumble under extreme weather conditions.
Long time coming
The new arch should be able to withstand
tremors of 6.0 magnitude — a strength rarely
seen in eastern Europe — and tornados that
strike the region only once every million years.
» » » Kiev has complained that European
assistance was slow to materialise.
The EBRD found 40 state sponsors to fund a
competition in 2007 to choose who should build
the massive moveable dome.
A French consortium of two companies known
as Novarka finished the designs in 2010 and
began construction two years later.
The shelter was edged towards the fourth
reactor in just under three weeks of delicate
work this month that was interrupted by bad
weather and other potential dangers.
» » » It will later be fitted with radiation
control equipment as well as air vents and fire
fighting measures.
The equipment inside the arch is expected to be
operative by the end of 2017.
“Only then will we begin to disassemble the old,
unstable structure,” State Nuclear Regulatory
Inspectorate of Ukraine’s head Sergiy Bozhko
told AFP.
But he said no timeframe had yet been set for
the particularly hazardous work of removing all
the remaining nuclear fuel from inside the plant
or dismantling the old dome.
Novarka believes that its arch will keep Europe
safe from nuclear fallout for the next 100 years.

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