The new protective shell over the damaged Ukrainian nuclear power plant in Chernobyl is starting to take shape. But, it’s not meant as a final solution for the site and financing for the project remains uncertain.
Several hundred builders are working on a crowded construction site, day and night. The workers come from all around the world: Ukraine, Turkey, France, Germany, Russia, Italy, Philippines and Azerbaijan. At first glance, things here don’t look much different from at any other building site. But, if you look closer, you then see the radiation gauges that everyone wears around their necks, and the world-famous silhouette of Chernobyl’s covered former nuclear reactor.
The construction of the New Safe Confinement (NSC), a protective cover, or sarcophagus, over the radioactive ruins of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, looks deceptively routine. In reality, things could become life-threatening here at any time. Just in case, everyone here has a breathing mask.
In the end though, engineers have opted for an arch-shaped steel structure, with a height of nearly 100 meters. The new protective shell is expected to last 100 years, meaning it’s just a temporary solution:
”Leaving the radioactive material on the site forever – irrespective of what form it is in – means that it becomes a permanent nuclear waste storage facility,” explains Norbert Molitor, the German coordinator of the expert group which has helped develop the NSC project.
“Building a permanent nuclear waste dump site involves meeting specific criteria. So far, no-one has shown me that this can be done here.”