The successful conclusion of the 72-hour trial operation test, a day before today’s 33rd anniversary of the 1986 accident, marks the safe physical completion of the structure, known as the New Safe Confinement.
The arch-shaped NSC – the largest moveable land-based structure ever built – will protect the environment from further releases of radioactive materials and enable the long-term deconstruction of the old shelter and the destroyed reactor, as well as the removal of the radioactive inventory.
The EBRD said the milestone is the culmination of over a decade’s work on the NSC, financed through the EBRD’s Chernobyl Shelter Fund. The fund was supported by over 45 donor nations and funds from the EBRD in excess of a total cost of €2.1bn. The EBRD said the NSC project represents the largest international collaboration ever in the field of nuclear safety.
A conceptual design for the NSC was decided in 2001 and onsite construction began in 2011. It was designed to cover the reactor building and a shelter built in 1986 to enclose the remnants of the destroyed reactor number four. The shelter, or “sarcophagus”, was hurriedly built in seven months and has deteriorated.
The NSC, which has a 100-year design life, was slid into place from its construction site in November 2016. It was constructed away from the sarcophagus to reduce radiation exposure to workers.
A technology building will serve as the command centre of the NSC from which day-to-day operations of the structure and decommissioning work will be guided. A crane system, which has been installed just below the ceiling of the NSC, will play a crucial role in this work. With a bridge length longer than a Boeing 777 and a lifting capacity of up to 50 tonnes, the fully automated system will allow for the future dismantling of Unit 4 in a hermetically sealed environment.
The NSC is part of the Shelter Implementation Plan to transform Chernobyl – at the time of the 1986 accident in the Soviet Union – into an environmentally safe and secure environment. The EBRD said it has provided €715m of its own resources to support Chernobyl projects including the NSC.