Chernobyl nuclear accident, Soviet Union

Abandoned City or Prypiat,
Chernobyl nuclear accident

Chernobyl control room.
Before the nuclear accident

Current status of the control room.
Chernobyl nuclear accident

Chernobyl Current Status

Chernobyl Current Status

The Chernoby nuclear accident was the worst accident in the history of nuclear energy. After 30 years, Chernobyl's current situation remains delicate.

The recovery of the nuclear accident zone and cleaning products has resulted in a large amount of radioactive waste and contaminated equipment. The generated nuclear waste is stored in about 800 different sites inside and outside the 30 km exclusion zone around Chernobyl nuclear reactor 4.

These nuclear wastes are partially stored in containers or buried in trenches, which may cause risk of contamination of groundwater.

It has been evaluated that the sarcophagus and the proliferation of waste storage sites represent a dangerous source of radioactivity in nearby areas. Some NEA experts feared that the collapse of the crashed nuclear reactor caused serious damage to the only reactor in operation until December 15, 2000, reactor 3.

The following images correspond to the aspect of abandonment that the city of Prypyat currently has, the city closest to the nuclear power plant.

Vienna International Conference

At the Vienna International Conference, held in April 1996, it was concluded that the total rehabilitation of the area was not possible due to the existence of “hot spots” of contamination, risks of groundwater contamination, restrictions on food and of risks associated with the possible collapse of the sarcophagus, given its deterioration in the years following the accident.

At the Vienna international conference it was pointed out that it was necessary to carry out a complete research program to develop an adequate design that would constitute a system of safe confinement from an ecological point of view. The new confinement of the plant should avoid rainwater seepage inside and avoid the sinking of the existing sarcophagus. The sinking of the current sarcophagus would cause the escape of radioactive dust and the remains of nuclear fuel (uranium and plutonium) into the environment.

International aid programs to improve the current situation in Chernobyl

Current status in Chernobyl after the accidentCurrent status in Chernobyl after the accidentCurrent status in Chernobyl after the accidentCurrent status in Chernobyl after the accident

Given the Chernobyl situation, the authorities and the nuclear industry of Western countries are making notable efforts to help Eastern countries improve the safety of their reactors, including RMBK. At present it is affirmed that, the situation of these countries is much better than in 1986.

Among the European Union aid programs, the TACIS (1989) and PHARE (1990) programs stand out. All economic contributions are transferred to a fund managed by the EBRD (European Bank for Reconstruction and Development) known as the "Chernobyl Shelter Fund (CSF)" or " Chernobyl Protection Fund". The EBRD will administer the fund on behalf of the contributing and donor countries, being responsible to the Assembly that meets 3 or 4 times a year. Currently, it has 22 members, including the European Union and Ukraine.

The TACIS Program financed, in 1996, a first study with the objective of analyzing, in a first phase, the possible short and long-term measures, to remedy the deplorable situation of the sarcophagus, and finally transform it into a safe location.

Initially, there were two alternatives: bury the sarcophagus in a concrete block and build a new enclosure that completely covered the injured reactor 4 and the reactor 3.

In May 1997, a group of European, American and Japanese experts, financed by the program, prepared the SIP (Shelter Implementation Plan). The objectives of the plan to turn the sarcophagus into a safe location were the following:

  • Reduce the risk of sinking of the sarcophagus.
  • In case of sinking, limit the consequences.
  • Improve the nuclear safety of the sarcophagus.
  • Improve worker safety and environmental protection in the sarcophagus.
  • Convert the location of the sarcophagus in an environmentally safe area.

 In addition, the SIP established three milestones to achieve:

  • Strategic decision to follow regarding stability and protection.
  • Strategy to follow regarding the problem of damaged and scattered fuel inside the sarcophagus.
  • Decision of the new type of enclosure to build.

Sacròfag under construction to cover the 3 and 4 reactors of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.According to the program, the project was to be completed in 2007. Until May 2001, stabilization and other short-term measures were carried out, constituting the first phase of the SIP.

The preliminary technical studies necessary to determine a strategy to improve the safety systems of the nuclear plant and prepare, in a second phase, the sarcophagus as a safe location were also carried out.

As for the type of protection enclosure, it was finally decided to build a wide arch of metallic vault inside whose unit 4 would be damaged. This construction offered many advantages in terms of reducing irradiation doses, safety during construction, the release of current unstable structures, greater space for dismantling and the flexibility needed to deal with uncertainties of fuel withdrawal Nuclear damaged and dispersed.

This metal vaulted arch was under construction since 2002 and 2005, at a cost of 700 million dollars. The sarcophagus will house the units of nuclear reactors 3 and 4 of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, under its waterproof wall of double wall internally pressurized and with a foundation of 27 meters deep.

Unit 3 of the Chernobyl plant stopped permanently on December 15, 2000. Both Ukrainian and foreign experts set the cost of the closure between 2,000 and 5,000 million dollars, until the radioactive fuel remaining in the plant was removed. with a deadline in 2008. This decision completed the total closure of the nuclear installation that had resulted, on April 26, 1986, to the greatest nuclear catastrophe in the history of nuclear energy.

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Last review: May 25, 2017