Dealing with the remnants of a nuclear disaster is no easy task. As a case in point, take a look at the Chernobyl reactor, where the world’s largest moveable metal structure will seal the plant’s fourth reactor for decades to come. Seeker reports that Ukrainian authorities have created an arch nearly as long as two football fields and taller than the Statue of Liberty to cover the crumbling remains of Reactor Number Four’s contaminated structure. The goal is to help keep future generations across Europe safe from the nuclear radiation that continues to emanate from the reactor that melted down over 30 years ago.
According to Seeker, Chernobyl remains the world’s worst civil nuclear accident, having spread contamination throughout the Ukraine and 75 percent of Europe after an experimental safety check gone wrong caused an explosion and subsequent meltdown that spewed radiation out into the atmosphere. The death toll from the event ranges from about 4,000 to 100,000 depending on whom you ask – due to a cover-up by Russian authorities after the disaster.
Ukrainian authorities now keep a 30-kilometer exclusion zone around the facility, but concerns over the crumbling concrete dome built to contain the reactor after the meltdown have led to $2.2 billion in funding from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development for the massive new protective structure – which is badly needed.
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“Radioactive dust inside the structure is being blown out through the cracks,” said Sergiy Paskevych of Ukraine’s Institute of Nuclear Power Plant Safety Problems. Paskevych also noted that the existing structure could crumble under extreme weather. “This would especially be a potential problem if there was a tornado or an earthquake.”
The new covering is designed to hold up to tremors as great as 6.0 on the Richter scale, and tornados stronger than the region is ever likely to see. The arch took three weeks of careful work to put in place, and contains special equipment to help disassemble the structure from inside. But there are no plans yet to deal with the real problem of the leftover nuclear fuel.
Images via Tim Porter, Wikimedia Commons and mattsh, Flickr Creative Commons