Chernobyl Reactor's Shelter in 'No Danger of Collapsing'

KIEV, Ukraine -- The crumbling concrete and steel shelter hastily erected over the destroyed nuclear reactor at Chernobyl is in no danger of collapsing, a senior Ukrainian official has said.

Fears have been growing that the shelter built 19 years ago after Chernobyl’s reactor No. 4 exploded and caught fire is deteriorating, which could lead to the release of dangerous radiation. Earlier this month, the West offered more money to the cash-strapped government to help fund a replacement.

Chernobyl Reactor No. 4 After Explosion in 1986

David Zhvania, head of the Emergency Situations Ministry, told Ukraine’s Channel 5 in an interview yesterday that construction work would begin within 18 months.

In the meantime, he insisted that the current shelter is safe.

“There is no danger that the shelter we currently have may break apart and cause a catastrophe,” he said. “Such a thing can’t happen. It’s excluded.”

Zhvania said that work will begin only after all preliminary plans are complete. The European Union and the Group of Eight industrial nations pledged a combined £101.5 million towards the project at a conference in London earlier this month. Ukraine has also promised to pay £12 million.

More than £329 million had been pledged earlier by 28 donor governments. Total costs are estimated at £550 million.

The protective shelter is meant to contain remnants of the reactor, which was the site of the world’s worst nuclear accident in 1986. The explosion spewed radiation over much of northern Europe. Some 4,400 people died and about seven million people in the former Soviet republics are believed to have suffered from radiation-related health problems.

Yuriy Andreev, the head of the Chernobyl Union action group, said that danger levels are still high because used fuel remains stored in the ground under reactor No. 4. Chernobyl’s remaining reactors were closed in 2000.

Officials say the proposed confinement structure – a 328ft-high steel arch spanning some 853ft – could be the largest moveable structure ever built. It is expected to be complete by 2009 and to last 100 years.

Source: Scotsman