back to article Chernobyl to get new steel lid

Ukrainian authorities will spend an estimated $1.4bn of foreign donors' cash covering the remains of Chernobyl nuclear power plant's No 4 reactor with a new "containment structure", the BBC reports. French company Novarka needs five years to construct the "giant arch-shaped structure", 190 metres wide and 200m long, to replace …

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  1. Ross Fleming Silver badge

    Right...

    Which one of those Ukranian scientists saw The Simpsons Movie this summer then? The solution to all problems - a big dome. I bet their gutted that O2 turned the Millenium Dome into a stadium, if only they'd been quicker off the mark...

  2. arran

    so...

    not only are they going to build next to a really unstable structure, but they are getting the french to do it.... great,

    still could be worse... they could be using polish builders.

  3. Louis

    RE: Right...

    It's not exactly had to be done before, pretty ingenious as it's going to be constructed next to the plant then slowly wheeled over the top of the 1986 mess. Plus it's designed so that the plant can be deconstructed from within it, and will contain its contents if the current carcass were to collapse.

    Considering that there's not much between the 95% of radioactive crap that's still sitting in the current carcass and our atmosphere, I'll be glad when Chernobyl Arch is in place.

  4. Gordon Crawford

    areal story

    so what does a nuclear ghost town look like? take a ride thru on a motorbike,,

    lookee here ..

    http://www.kiddofspeed.com/

  5. Eugene Goodrich

    Would have been cheaper if they'd built it in the first place?

    So, a containment vessel around a nuclear reactor? Like the one that should have been built there at the same time the reactor was, so that if the reactor were to leak its magic smoke, there'd be a chance to contain it?

    I suppose if most reactors don't fail, then it _would_ be more cost-effective to only put containment vessels over the ones that do....

    Of course, for that viewpoint one would have to look at the radioisotope pollution, psychological damage, and loss of trust for the entire industry as unimportant costs, or just as a cost "someone else" has to pay. Hooray for externalities!

  6. the Jim bloke

    another ElReg slow with the news

    I remember seeing something about this on TV... weeks or months ago.

    Cant recall where, might have been Natioanl Geographic channel or Discovery channel or something like that.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Built in the first place

    Actually that was something of a flaw in the model, and, as most modern tragedies, thought of until AFTER the damn thing blew up. And the reason why the reactor did what it did was a really big SNAFU from the start. Funny how most people have common sense not to redline their car, but the former techs at Chernobyl did not take this precaution. *boom*

  8. Andrew

    pre built

    Would not the large explosion / heat kinda wreck any pre built containment before it could be of any use? The explosion from the original melt down did vaparised the giant concreat slab that was on top of it, sending radioactive dust all the way to Sweden. How well would the new cover stand up to that sort of stress?

  9. Jasmine Strong

    Uh... a few facts, kids

    Firstly, the kind of containment structure used in Western reactor designs would *not* have contained the sort of accident that happened in Chernobyl's Unit 4. However, Western reactor designs would not have been vulnerable to this sort of catastrophe in the first place- it was only possible due to serious design flaws in the RBMK core. Furthermore, the sort of experiment that was happening at Chernobyl on that fateful day would not have been allowed at any Western reactor- certainly not without some serious supervision from the reactor design team and other skilled people. The Chernobyl accident was certainly not something that could happen at any Western nuclear power station. Other catastrophic accidents maybe- but nothing on the scale of Chernobyl.

    Secondly, the RBMK containment consisted primarily of a large reinforced concrete slab on top of the reactor vessel. This slab was *not* vaporised by the steam explosion that opened the reactor- it was actually flipped over onto its side. (This obviously took a lot of energy, but not nearly as much as vaporising several hundred tonnes of ferroconcrete.) The plume of radioactive dust actually mostly came from the fire that raged for several days after the accident- not that much of it was actually produced in the initial explosion.

    Thirdly, the accident at Chernobyl was caused by the reactor being unstable at *low* power, not by the operators "redlining" it. Duh.

    I really wish people would learn something about what they're talking about before they make HURR HURR INTERNETS comments like these.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Built in the first place

    "Actually that was something of a flaw in the model... And the reason why the reactor did what it did was a really big SNAFU from the start. Funny how most people have common sense not to redline their car".

    What a load of tosh.

    The accident in reactor no. 4 took place during a test. The operating crew planned to test whether the turbines could produce sufficient energy to keep the coolant pumps running in the event of a loss of power until the emergency diesel generator was activated.

    In order to prevent the test run of the reactor being interrupted, the safety systems were deliberately switched off. For the test, the reactor had to be powered down to 25 per cent of its capacity. This procedure did not go according to plan: for unknown reasons, the reactor power level fell to less than 1 per cent. The power therefore had to be slowly increased.

    But 30 seconds after the start of the test, there was a sudden and unexpected power surge. The reactor's emergency shutdown (which should have halted the chain reaction) failed. It was an unfortunate combination of human error and technical failure - nothing to do with having "common sense not to redline their car".

  11. Kevin Hall

    Been an international disgrace

    The international community has been dragging its feet on this for years. Instead of trying to contain a threat that is a danger to everyone we've been bickering for years on how to get away with paying as little as possible. I think we all have a joint responsibility for cleaning up the debris of the Cold War and the sooner Chernobyl is stabalised the safer we will all be. I just wonder at how many potential Chernobyl sites are lurking around the world.

  12. Greg

    Re: another ElReg slow with the news

    I saw that documentary too, but IIRC they said that they didn't yet have the money to build it - it was just in the pipeline. Obviously now they have the cash.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Andrew

    The original disaster happened when the thing was running hot. It isn't running at all any more; the new containment structure is to stop the products of a very messy and unpredictable dismantling getting out. There shouldn't be any explosions and the heat should a) be manageable and b) far enough from the cover to not melt it.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Andrew

    The explosion was a steam explosion, not a nuclear one. The reactor housing was shattered by the explosion and distributed over the local area, but not vapourised. The new cover does not have to deal with an explosion since there's no water in the reactor any more.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Probably right, but ...

    "the large explosion / heat kinda wreck any pre built containment before it could be of any use?"

    Sounds fairly likely.

    But equally, why wait 21 years after the event, before building the structure? This is surely news that OUGHT to be 20+ years old, but sadly isn't.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Andrew

    The original explosion did not vapourise the concrete slab on the top of the reactor. It did propel it into the air a bit and then the thing came down at an angle, where it sits on top of the whole arrangement to this day (albeit under many tons of sand and other crap subsequently dumped there - a sort of grandiose, helicopter-delivered brushing under the carpet exercise). Dig out some of the earlier aerial shots taken after the pig's ear in question and you can clearly see it.

    My worries are more in line with those of an earlier poster. The last large-scale, arching concrete structure built by the French was Terminal 2E at Paris CDG. It's world-famous and highly convincing impersonation of a pile of rubble shortly after it opened caused me a certain amount of inconvenience.

    TeeCee

  17. Dan

    far as i understand it

    this idea has been kicking around for a long time, design in place, company ready to build new sarcophagus - only sticking point was funding.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Title

    @arran - I realise you were probably joking, but:

    If you want anyone designing anything nuclear, it is probably the French. They are in in fact one of the most experienced Nuclear engineering nations on earth, they operate their own (truly) indipendant weapons system and they produce 80% of their leccy with nuclear with no noteable accidents, ever.

    As for Polish builders - coming over here, taking our jobs. NO, DOING OUR JOBS. With their quaint work ethic and not wanting a cup of tea every five seconds, starting early and working late and doing it for the agreed price.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @arran re: so...

    Arran, France just happens to be home to the largest manufacturer of nuclear facilities in the world (Areva). It makes sense to ask Areva to do something... they've been building nuclear reactors for decades, and even though British Nuclear owned Westinghouse (Toshiba does now), Westinghouse does not come close to Areva in sales or expertise. Sorry matey, stop being a sourpuss and begrudging the Ukrainians the selection.

  20. Claus Møller

    Why?

    Such a huge effort and investment, just for covering up old lies???

    There is nothing left in Chernobyl. There is nothing to contain any more. Only cover up.

    I am not convinced that a huge explosion, uncontrolable fires and thousands dead from the radiation they were exposed to during the fire-fighting and clean-up leaves much, if anything, to contain in the reactor. Anything that could burn has burned.....

    Building this structure will only prevent people getting in and documentingwhat is (not) left inside, it will not keep anything inside...

  21. Dan

    @Claus Møller

    mmm, interesting...CUCKOO.

  22. Paul

    @Claus Møller

    Actually there is allot of very radioactive material left. Very nasty stuff. As I remember the half-life of that stuff is about 1200 years, but then I haven’t done physics in about 8 years. I seem to remember that allot of it was thrown out and effectively most of the original building is pebbledashd in nuclear waste (Except not as spent as the stuff that normally comes out of reactors)

  23. myxiplx

    WTF @ Claus Møller

    I'm so relieved that you think there's nothing left to contain. Obviously the hundreds of experts from dozens of countries who've researched chernobyl over the last 20+ years haven't the first clue what they're talking about... o_0

    If you're that convinced they're hiding something, do the rest of us a favour and go have a look inside, ok?

  24. Mark Malley

    Great link

    Gordon, thanks for that link, those pictures really do show how time has frozen over there.

  25. Claus Møller

    @myxiplx

    The same quality of hundreds or thousands of experts still claiming that the co2-emissions by mankind are the cause of global warming?

  26. Greg

    @Claus Møller

    Man, you're an idiot.

    There's a Horizons documentary on TV Links called "Inside the Sarcophagus of Chernobyl." Go watch it, get a clue, then come back.

    There are materials inside Chernobyl so radioactive workers can't get near them. Other places they're allowed to enter for 10 minutes at a time, then run out. It's that bad.

    Anyone wanting a good run-down on the events and consequences of Chernobyl should watch that documentary. It's really rather good.

  27. Paul Smith

    bloody foreigners

    Good job that sort of thing couldn't happen here! We have no need to worry about cleaning up a nuclear mess. I mean, $1.4bn just to contain the mess. Not clean it up, just contain it. I wonder how long the shelter is designed to last, and how much it will cost when it needs repairing and/or replaceing?

  28. Richard Hebert

    Heroes

    I will always remember the courage of the people going in to try

    to cap and extinguish the inferno.Heroes that knew they were sent

    to their deaths trying to save the lives of countless others.

    I wish this new structure will be able to be built without more people

    dying. That noone else will have to die in the nuclear inferno, ever.

  29. Chris Fryer

    Re: Re: Built in the first place

    You quote from http://www.chernobyl.info/index.php?navID=10 when saying the reactor power level dropped to less that one percent "for unknown reasons".

    I believe the current consensus is that the experiment protocol called for a reduction in power output to ~20%. However, this was only supposed to take place after the output had already been reduced to 50%. This had not been possible due to an earlier shortfall in grid supply caused by the failure of a power station elsewhere. The reactor was therefore running at normal output when the experiment began.

    Reducing the power from 100% to 20% resulted in an increase in the fission poison product xenon-135, which absorbs neutrons. The resulting unexpected drop in reactor output was counteracted by withdrawing the control rods beyond recommended limits.

    Additional increases in coolant flow, as called for by the experiment protocol, further reduced the reactor's output, since water also absorbs neutrons. The technicians responded by removing manual control rods. Although the reactor's output was now restored to its expected level, fission was to a large degree controlled by factors outside the technicians' control, i.e. xenon-135, which was eventually expended, and water, which was removed from the core by the design of the experiment itself.

    The disaster, from the start of the experiment, to the steam explosion and resulting ignition of the graphite moderator, took approximately 43 seconds.

  30. Michael

    @ Anonymous "@ Andrew" idiots

    Context, people. Context.

    Eugene Goodrich said:

    So, a containment vessel around a nuclear reactor? Like the one that should have been built there at the same time the reactor was, so that if the reactor were to leak its magic smoke, there'd be a chance to contain it?

    In response, Andrew said:

    Would not the large explosion / heat kinda wreck any pre built containment before it could be of any use?

    Neither of them are referring to the current structure being built over Chernobyl, but rather the feasibility (or lack thereof) of building a containment superstructure over existing power stations, as a preventive measure.

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