The Ukrainian state company that manages the Chernobyl nuclear site, SSE Chernobyl NPP, has signed a $78 million contract with construction company Ukrbudmontazh (UBM) for the creation of infrastructure to dismantled the Shelter, or sarcophagus, which was hastily constructed over the remains of the fourth reactor destroyed during the 1986 accident.

The contract was signed on 29 July after UBM won a tender in March to carry out the work. The stability of the sarcophagus is a major risk factor at the site, as its potential collapse could release more radioactive materials. Although a project to shore up the structure was completed in mid-2008, the maximum life of the stabilised structures was put as the end of 2023.

The €1.5 billion ($1.7 billion) New Safe Confinement (NSC) was constructed with international support to enclose the damaged reactor and the sarcophagus to facilitate decommissioning. It was financed by 45 donor countries and institutions and was constructed in two halves near the accident site between 2010 and 2016 before being moved into place over the damaged reactor in November 2016. The NSC structure was formally handed over to Ukraine in July. 
UBM will carry out the work in three stages. The first and second stages involve the inspection of the old Shelter and design works to enable planning for dismantling the unstable structures, for managing the large volumes of radioactive waste generated, and for ensuring the maximum safety of workers. The third stage of the work involves the procurement and installation of equipment for the dismantling and handling of the disassembled fragments, as well as early dismantling.

The dismantled parts of the Shelter will be remotely processed in the NSC Technological Building, where they will be cut, decontaminated, placed in transport containers and prepared for transportation for recycling or disposal.

Photo: Chernobyl shelter