30 Apr (NucNet): A donor conference has secured financing for the completion “on schedule by the end of 2017” of the new safe confinement (NSC), the protective structure being built to cover the destroyed reactor 4 on the site of the nuclear accident in Chernobyl, Ukraine, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) said.
At the conference, the G7 and European Commission confirmed an additional contribution of €165 million ($184m) to the Chernobyl Shelter Fund, while other countries pledged €15m. Several other countries indicated that they would also make contributions “in the near future”, the statement said. EBRD governors had already said in November 2014 that the EBRD would provide an additional €350m.
Before the new pledges, the NSC project had been facing a funding gap of €615m, which has now been reduced to €85m.
The new funds will allow all works in Chernobyl to continue without delay, said the EBRD, which is administering the Chernobyl decommissioning fund. Meanwhile, efforts to raise the remaining shortfall will continue, with the EBRD covering any outstanding amount.
The Chernobyl Shelter Fund was set up in 1997 to help Ukraine raise the funds needed to decommission Chernobyl and return the site to a safe state. The NSC, at a cost of €1.5 billion, is the most prominent element of the €2.15bn Shelter Implementation Plan, the strategic framework developed to overcome the consequences of the 1986 accident.
With a height of 110 metres, a length of 165 metres, a span of 260 metres and a weight of more than 30,000 tonnes, the NSC is the largest moveable land-based structure ever built. It has been constructed since 2010 in a cleared area in two halves which have been lifted and joined.
The purpose of the structure is to protect the environment from radiation releases and provide the infrastructure to support the deconstruction of the shelter and nuclear waste management operations. It has a lifespan of at least 100 years.
The NSC is currently being equipped with heavy duty cranes and other specialised equipment before it will be moved over the damaged reactor in late 2017.
The EBRD said the work on Unit 4 is not the only task at Chernobyl. The three reactors which continued operations after the 1986 accident also need to be decommissioned, and the spent fuel and radioactive waste treated and stored safely. For this purpose the international community is financing an interim storage facility at a cost in excess of €300m and a liquid waste treatment facility.
The interim storage facility is in the final phase of construction and will process, dry and cut more than 20,000 fuel assemblies and place them in metal casks, which will be enclosed in concrete modules on site.
The spent fuel will then be stored safely and securely for a minimum period of 100 years. The facility received an operating licence at the end of 2014.
Forty three donor governments have contributed to the Chernobyl Shelter Fund. In addition to its role as fund manager the EBRD has provided €675m of its own resources to support Chernobyl projects including the new safe confinement.