Chernobyl shelter work advances

31 March 1999

This year should see substantial expenditure on strengthening the shelter around Chernobyl’s destroyed fourth reactor, Valentyn Kupny, head of the safety project, told the Nucnet information service. He said that 1999 would mark a turning point, with funding worth $103 million being made available under the Shelter Implementation Plan (SIP).

Last year a ventilation stack between units 3 and 4 was repaired, removing the danger of its collapse. The priority now is to strengthen the shelter roof support beams and western wall, while ensuring proper monitoring of the structure. This would make possible further work under the SIP, which is expected to cost a total of $758 million. Various governments have pledged about $400 million to the project.

At the end of January, the Chernobyl Shelter facility and the construction enterprise Ukrenerhobud [Ukrainian energy construction] signed a contract on carrying out the first stage of reinforcing the emergency construction beams on which the roof of the reactor hall rests. Around 580 people will take part in the work; the total radiation dose is estimated at 5 980 man-REM.

Some fire safety improvements have recently been made, including coating cables with fire-resistant materials, improving the power supply system, and improving fire-fighting plans and training. A paper attributed to Kupny and made available at Nuclear Engineering International’s Fire & Safety ‘99 conference in Frankfurt, says the shelter has suffered six fires in 12 years. Kupny estimates that there are 2 000 tons of combustible materials inside the Sarcophagus.

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