The first section of a colossal arch-shaped structure has been put up over the exploded reactor number 4 at the Chernobyl nuclear plant in Ukraine.
“This project is unique,” said Nicolas Caille from designers Novarka, “an arch like this has never been constructed. The design is very complex, more than two million hours of work have gone into it. Making it was a challenge but putting it in place has been easier.”
Once completed, the structure will be slid into place via a system of rails. The reactor itself will then be dismantled and the radioactive material disposed of.
Risk assessment is a vital part of the process. “We must find a place to bury the radioactive waste for ever, said Carlo Mancini from the International Advisory Group, “and we haven’t identified anywhere yet.”
The blast from the accident in 1986 blew radioactive particles across Europe, killing 31 people immediately. Nearby Pripyat, built to house workers from the plant, became a ghost town as thousands were evacuated from their homes.
Many more are thought to have died from radiation-related sickness but the total death toll is a subject of intense debate even now.
Our correspondent in Chernobyl, Sergio Cantone, says the concern is that radioactive particles from the reactor could leak down to the water table and contaminate supplies. It is hoped that this new construction will prevent this from happening.