French Novarka To Repair Shelter At Ukraine's Chernobyl

KIEV, Ukraine -- The French construction company Novarka will repair an ageing protective shelter built over the radioactive remains of Ukraine's Chernobyl nuclear power station, a senior Ukrainian official said on Tuesday.

A legacy of Communism - Chernobyl reactor #4

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) will fund the project for a planned 472 million dollars, said Nestor Shufrich, head of Ukraine's Ministry of Emergency Situations, at a Kiev press conference.

The EBRD awarded Novarka the contract after a competitive tender, Shufrich said. A construction contract between Novarka and the Ukrainian government will be signed 'within a week after September 17...if everything goes to schedule,' he added.

The EBRD opened the tender in 2004. A competing joint bid from US CH2M Hill and Ukrainian Interbudmontazh lost out as its offer to to the job cost 584 million dollars, according to the report.

An end date for the construction project was not made public. Liquid radioactive materials inside the sarcophagus would be removed to a safer location during 2009, predicted Volodymyr Holosh, a Chernobyl station spokesman.

Site of the world's worst-ever nuclear power accident in 1986, the remains of an exploded reactor at the Chernobyl station are enclosed in a reinforced concrete structure almost always referred to, in Ukraine, as 'The Sarcophagus'.

Exposure to weather and poor construction standards used during the sarcophagus' erection 21 years ago have left the structure weak, and in places open to the environment.

Novarka has proposed building a new shelter around the existing sarcophagus, and possibly removing the most dangerous contents to a newly-constructed, modern containment structure, guaranteed to stand for at least a century.

In a related development, the EBRD on Tuesday announced that US Holtec had been contracted for 41 million dollars as the construction firm for the separate radioacative material containment and processing facility, in cooperation with the Ukrainian government.

The site will contain technology to process dangerous radioactive materials to a safer form, with the construction contract scheduled to be signed in September, Shufrich said.

Belgian Belgatom, Italian Ansaldo, and French SGN will participate in building the processing plant, along with Ukrainian construction companies, Interfax reported.

A multi-national assembly of donor nations and agencies including the EBRD in 2000 pledged more than 1 billion dollars to the project. Novarka could receive up to 671 million dollars (490 million Euros) from the EBRD for the shelter construction project, together with associated jobs, a bank official said.

Besides construction and dealing with the still-hot radioactive materials at the station, fund money also will go towards environmental protection and local economic assistance, according to the report.

At least 8 million dollars according to Shufrich will be spent on closing down and neutralising the radioactive contents a single functional reactor at the Chernobyl station, turned off by Ukraine in 2000 in exchange for promises of assistance money from the international community.

Source: Deutsche Presse-Agentur