Reactor 4 of the Ukrainian Chernobyl nuclear power plant has been covered with a new arch and is the largest mobile structure ever built by humans. This time, it has been co-financed by the EU. EURACTIV’s media partner Euroefe reports.
“Twenty-two years after the creation of the Chernobyl Protection Fund, the new protective arch has just been inaugurated in Ukraine,” Antón Úsov, representative of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) in charge of the project, said on Facebook.
The new protective metal frame, which takes the form of an arch that is 110 metres high, 150 metres wide, 256 metres long, and weighs over 30,000 tonnes. The structure has replaced the reinforced concrete sarcophagus built after the explosion of reactor 4 in 1986.
Construction began in 2007 at a total cost of €1.5 billion, of which €700 million are EBRD funds.
“With a lifespan of at least 100 years, the metal frame will resolve the issue of dismantling reactor 4’s old one,” explained Úsov.
During his visit to the site that was the scene of the greatest nuclear tragedy in history, Ukrainian President Vladímir Zelenski said it was time to put an end to Chernobyl’s negative image.
“We need to transform our problem into an advantage,” he insisted, announcing that he had signed a decree to encourage travel to Chernobyl.
The Ukrainian President stressed the area’s nature, which he said was recovering from the 1986 accident.
“We must show this site to the world, scientists, ecologists, historians and tourists,” he said, quoted by the Interfax Ukraine agency.
The official document, signed by Zelenski, lifts the ban on taking photos and videos in the exclusion zone around the nuclear power plant.
According to Ukrainian authorities, the number of tourists visiting the Chernobyl area each year has increased tenfold since 2015, from 8,000 to 70,000 people.
According to official estimates at the time, the explosion that took place at the dawn of 26 April 1986 spread 200 tonnes of material with radioactivity of 50 million curies, the equivalent of 500 atomic bombs like the one dropped on Hiroshima.
The radiation continues to affect thousands of people in Belarus, Ukraine and Russia, where 70% of the nearly 200,000 square kilometres of contaminated land is located.