Sunday 29 April 2012

Containing Chernobyl

Twenty-six years after the world’s worst nuclear disaster, work has begun on a huge new metal shelter to cover the Chernobyl reactor.    The structure, which is so big you could put the Statue of Liberty inside, should be finished by 2015.

After the disaster on April 26, 1986, a concrete ‘sarcophagus’ was hastily erected, but for years it has been crumbling, allowing radiation to leak out.    Once the new structure has been finished, the delicate and dangerous task of dismantling the reactor and clearing up vast amounts of radioactive waste around it can begin.

The Ukraine government has received more than £600m in donations from other countries to enable the work to proceed.    One donor, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, said there was no room ‘for delay, for errors or for poor performance.’

All those things were evident in the original disaster, the contamination from which, according to some estimates, has cost up to 200,000 lives and damaged the health of a further 2m people.   (See also my blogs of April 14, 2009 and March 14, 2011.)

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