How New Safe Confinement saved the world


  • 26/11/2018
  • Dominik

An ill-fated experiment at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant on 26th April 1986 caused a huge thermal explosion. It became known as the biggest nuclear disaster of the 20th century and forced people, numbering in tens of thousands living within the 30 km exclusion zone, to be evacuated. This catastrophe led to the construction of the first sarcophagus in November 1986 that was assembled in a record time of only 5 months.

Back in 1996, radiation levels had risen to 10 000 roentgens per hour. Compared to cities with normal radiation levels of approximately 20-50 micro roentgens per hour. This confirmed the need for a second construction as the original sarcophagus had been damaged beyond repair. Rain water was leaking through the roof and came into contact with radioactive material before dripping into the soil. This posed a serious threat to the environment. And so, a decision was made to construct a second sarcophagus.

Assembly of the New Safe Confinement, or so-called new sarcophagus, started in 2010 and finished in 2016. With the length of 165 meters, 260 meters wide and 110 meters tall, the arch could house the Statue of Liberty, or the Notre Dame Cathedral. With a weight of approximately 36,200 tons, the shelter is about three times as heavy as the Eiffel Tower. And why the New Safe Confinement has this monstrous dimension? Simply, it was built that large, because in the future it should host numerous heavy-machines which would safely remove the old sarcophagus and the remains of destroyed reactor number 4.

Did you know that the new Safe Confinement structure was assembled 200 m from the power plant and was pulled over the original Chernobyl sarcophagus using a customized rail track? That made it the largest moving construction in the world.

Though the first original sarcophagus was meant to last for 30 years; repairs and maintenance have been carried out on it repeatedly until as recently as 2011. These reinforcements ensured an additional 15 years to its service life. But now, the New Safe Confinement seals the old sarcophagus and it is meant to last for another 100 years. The ultimate aim of disassembling the destroyed reactor is, however, still a distant prospect.