Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant

Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant power grid

The Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant (ChNPP) site is located next to the town of Pripyat. A massive explosion rocked the area on April 23, 1986 at 01:23.  A failure of a scheduled test of reactor unit 4 led to an uncontrolled reaction and subsequent explosion that left the building in ruins.  Highly radioactive materials were expelled into the surrounding areas and atmosphere that would changed the landscape of the area forever.

The genie was out of the bottle

You cannot see or smell radiation; It is invisible and deadly. In the days/weeks after the explosion, heroic efforts were performed by hundreds of thousands of civil and military personnel called “Liquidators” who worked to snuff out the fires, remove radioactive debris and begin the process to seal the building and exposed core.

Containment efforts were made with the most advanced engineering solutions and technology available at the time. Everyone knew they’d have to build a more permanent, long term confinement structure one day.

The Sarcophagus

The New Safe Confinement structure was designed with 5 primary goals in-mind:

  • Convert the destroyed ChNPP Unit 4 into an environmentally safe system.
  • Reduce corrosion and weathering of the existing shelter and the Unit 4 reactor building.
  • Mitigate the consequences of a potential collapse of either the existing shelter or the Unit 4 reactor building, particularly in terms of containing the radioactive dust that would be produced by such a collapse.
  • Enable safe demolition of unstable structures (such as the roof of the existing shelter) by providing remotely operated equipment for their demolition.
  • Qualify as a Nuclear entombment device.

Construction began in 2010 and finished in 2017.  I had the opportunity to visit the site which doesn’t look very large in pictures, but it awe-inspiring in person.