French Firm Could Build Shield Over Main Chernobyl Reactor

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine could sign a contract with a French firm in September to build a giant protective shield over a damaged reactor in Chernobyl, the scene of the world's worst nuclear disaster, the emergencies minister said Wednesday.

This graffiti was made in Pripyat town, which was the first town to be affected with radiation when Chernobyl accident happened. Artists from Moscow, Minsk, Berlin went down there 20 years later to make a tribute to all those people who passed away and who are still suffering from the causes of this catastrophe. The Chernobyl reactor is on the left in the background.

"The Assembly of Chernobyl Shelter Fund Donors made a decision in London July 17 to give its approval to the contract to build the shelter with the Novarka concern, with a preliminary cost of 490 million euros (about $680 million)," Nestor Shufrych said.

The decision came after numerous delays since the fund - which comprises 28 countries, including the G8 nations and is run by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development - pledged in 2005 to allocate about $200 million on a new vault to contain radioactive material still inside the plant's main, fourth, reactor since the powerful 1986 explosions.

The project is a tricky one, above all because of the radiation involved. A huge steel vault, which will be made away from the reactor site and will then be slid into place on rails, will seal the plant for 100 years, and further measures are expected to reduce the radiation threat or remove radioactive material from the plant.

Much of the radioactive material inside the plant is temporarily contained by a Russian-designed "sarcophagus."

The devastating disaster in then Soviet Ukraine killed and affected nine million people across the world, according to UN estimates.

Vast areas, above all in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia, were contaminated by the fallout of the explosion. An 18-mile zone, from which about 135,000 people were evacuated after the disaster, remains largely deserted to this day.

Source: RIA Novosti