Published on April 28th, 2017 | by Joshua S Hill0
Chernobyl Nuclear Reactor Is Permanently Entombed With World’s Largest Movable Structure
April 28th, 2017 by Joshua S Hill
April 26 was the 31st anniversary of the massive and world-changing explosion at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant’s Unit 4 reactor, back in 1986, which shifted how the world sees nuclear energy. In November of 2016, the power plant was permanently entombed in the world’s largest movable structure, a massive steel arch which was slid over the reactor.
Every now and again a story comes along which, while not necessarily “news” or “current” is nevertheless of such interest that I can’t pass it by. My attention was drawn to a piece written by the US Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory on April 26, marking the 31st anniversary of the catastrophic 1986 Chernobyl disaster.
The blast released 400 times the radioactivity released by the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, in World War II. Chernobyl, located in the north of Ukraine, was then still a part of the Russian Soviet Union. On Saturday, April 26, 1986 (I was 2 years old, for anyone wondering), Reactor No. 4 experienced a catastrophic power increase which resulted in core explosions and open-air fires. Reactor No. 4 was completely destroyed and caused 31 (direct) deaths — 2 during the blasts, and 29 firemen and employees died over the days and months following.
Unsurprisingly, given the nature of such disasters, cleaning up the area has not been an easy task. By the end 1986, a large cement sarcophagus had been erected in an effort to minimize further danger, but this was a quick and dirty job, and a longer-term solution has always been necessary.
In the early 1990s, Batelle, operator of the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, was part of an international consortium of groups and organizations looking for a long-term measure to safely confine the No. 4 reactor.
Among the solutions, and the one to come to fruition, was the New Safe Confinement, the world’s largest movable structure. 843 feet (257 meters) across, 355 feet (108 meters) high, and 492 feet (150 meters) in length, the New Safe Confinement is roughly the size of two Manhattan blocks, and is tall enough to enclose the Statue of Liberty.
The New Safe Confinement was moved into place in November of 2016, a 40,000 tonne structure that covers the reactor and the original concrete sarcophagus. The operation took several weeks.