This Massive Sliding Arch Is the Latest Attempt to Confine Chernobyl's Radiation


Thirty years after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986, the site still spews radiation, and much of the land around the stricken nuclear power plant remains off-limits to the public. However, the Wall Street Journal reports that workers are close to completing a massive construction project designed to contain the fallout.

Called the “New Safe Confinement,” the 350-foot-high, 500-foot-long steel arch is the world's largest land-based moving structure, NBC reports. It will shield Chernobyl’s damaged nuclear reactor number four, preventing radioactive substances from escaping the apparatus for at least 100 years. In case of natural disasters, the structure is built to withstand fire, frigid winters, earthquakes, and tornados with winds up to 206 miles per hour. If everything runs on schedule, the confinement system will be placed over the stricken reactor later this year.

New Safe Confinement marks the second attempt to contain the fallout of the disaster. On April 26, 1986, the Chernobyl explosion and fire at the Soviet nuclear plant in northern Ukraine sent radioactive clouds billowing over Europe. Hundreds of thousands of people were forced to evacuate the neighboring workers town of Pripyat, and the Soviet military instated a roughly 18-mile Exclusion Zone around the plant. The plant’s other reactors were eventually taken out of service, and the plant hasn’t produced any electricity since 2000.

To prevent waste from seeping into the atmosphere, Soviet workers built a steel-and-concrete “sarcophagus” over the reactor building—but the structure was finished in just five months and was only intended to last 30 years. A few years ago, it was reinforced after nearly collapsing, according to National Geographic. In search of a more permanent solution, international donors and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development contributed several billion dollars to fund construction for the New Safe Confinement.

According to Engineering and Technology Magazine, the 36,000-ton structure will slide on rails over the reactor building and sarcophagus in late 2016. In 2017, robotic machinery inside the New Safe Confinement will take apart the sarcophagus and reactor and move waste to a nearby storage facility.

While the arch will make Chernobyl safer, the surrounding area will still remain closed to unsanctioned visitors, the CBC reports. However, you can still take a peek at the project via the above video, provided by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development

[h/t The Wall Street Journal]

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