Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant
On the 26th of April, 1986, during a safety test at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in the middle of the night, a massive explosion occurred at reactor number 4, sending highly radioactive material up into the atmosphere. Immediately, the wind carried the radiation north-west, over Belarus towards Sweden, where high-levels of radiation detected at a nuclear plant, alerting the west to the catastrophe that was occurring within the Soviet Union.
The next day, 116,000 people were evacuated from a 30 kilometre radius zone around the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant and work began on containing the disaster. Between May of 1986 and November, the first sarcophagus was built over reactor 4 with the aim of preventing further spread of nuclear radiation. Radiation levels at Chernobyl were extremely high during this period, therefore making the construction of the sarcophagus incredibly difficult.
‘Object Shelter’, as it was known, was executed, and coal miners, military personnel, scientists and fire fighters from across the Soviet Union were called in to contain the radiation at reactor number 4. Together they were known as the ‘Soviet Liquidators’ and they worked around the clock to build the first sarcophagus, which secured within its construction 200 tons of radioactive corium, 30 tons of highly contaminated dust and 16 tons of uranium and plutonium.
In 2016, the new sarcophagus built by the French consortium Novarka, was finally slid over reactor number 4 and the old sarcophagus, taking 16 days in total. It has taken 24 years of planning and has cost 2.15 billion euros, but now that the new sarcophagus is finally in place, work can commence – using robotically controlled instruments – on dismantling the old sarcophagus and containing the nuclear contamination.