Work begins on new sarcophagus for Chernobyl reactor

24th September 2010, Comments 0 comments

A French company has begun work on erecting a new sarcophagus to confine the Chernobyl reactor that exploded in 1986 in the world's worst nuclear disaster, a spokeswoman for the operation said Friday.

Workers from France's Novarka are laying rails that will be used to slide a new sarcophagus over the reactor, said Maya Rudenko, a spokeswoman for the Ukrainian state enterprise responsible for securing the reactor.

"It's the first large-scale operation by Novarka for this project," Rudenko said. The Ukrainian authorities over the last three years have carried out preliminary work to clean up the site and demolish buildings, she added.

The fourth reactor at a power station in the Ukrainian city of Chernobyl, around 100 kilometres north of Kiev, exploded in April 1986, contaminating a swathe of Europe, with Ukraine, Belarus and Russia the worst affected.

The remains of the reactor were hastily covered with a concrete sarcophagus in 1986, but the structure is now cracked and unstable.

A consortium made up of French construction companies Bouygues and Vinci won a tender in 2007 to build a new sarcophagus, financed by an international foundation.

The 108-metre-high arched structure, weighing 20,000 tonnes, will be assembled close to the reactor and then slid on rails over the existing sarcophagus.

The project will cost a total of at least 870 million euros (1.17 billion dollars), according to estimates by the Ukrainian government.

The project currently has a "deficit of 550 million euros," deputy prime minister Andriy Klyuev said during a visit to the site on Thursday.

© 2010 AFP

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