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Staff Accomplishments

Design approved for Chornobyl Containment structure

January 2005
The design for a New Safe Confinement (NSC) building to enclose the remains of the Chornobyl nuclear power plant has been approved by both Ukrainian regulatory authorities and the country's Cabinet of Ministers. Now Battelle, along with partners Bechtel and Electricite' de France, is in the process of evaluating bids to select a contractor to build the enormous structure. The NSC will be assembled at a distance and then slid into place over the former nuclear power plant in order to reduce the risk of workers being exposed to radioactive materials still present around the destroyed reactor. The government of Ukraine approved the conceptual design for the building in December 2004. The consortium, consisting of Battelle, Bechtel, and Electricite' de France, supported by Ukrainian subcontractor KSK, has been working on the design since 2001. The current shelter was built over the reactor relatively quickly following the 1986 accident, and is unstable. It is at risk for collapse, and structural faults allow precipitation to enter, pushing contamination deeper into the soil. "We have several challenges in dealing with the ongoing potential for contamination from the Object Shelter," says Eric Schmieman, who led Battelle's work on the NSC design. "Water can get in, dust can get out, and the Shelter could collapse before stabilization measures are completed, which could spread radioactivity into the environment." The NSC design addresses these issues. The building will be fully enclosed, to prevent what's outside (such as precipitation and animals) from getting in; and to prevent hazardous material inside - primarily radioactive dust, fuel-containing material, and other contaminated materials -- from getting out. "This new building is designed to last a hundred years," says Schmieman. "We estimate that 100 years is sufficient time for Ukraine to locate, permit, and construct a deep geological repository for disposal of the highest level radioactive waste resulting from restoration of Chornobyl to an environmentally safe site." The building design is an arch that will be more than 100 meters high at its peak, more than 250 meters wide, and more than 150 meters long. It will be one of the largest "free volume" spaces in the world. Schmieman says they expect to choose a contractor by the end of 2005. Construction will take about four years for the massive structure, which will be visible from space. Once the NSC has been put in place over the existing shelter, the current structure will be demolished remotely within the confines of the NSC. Points of Contact: Kelvin Soldat, Environment, Safety and Health Product Line Manager; and Eric Schmieman, NSC Design Lead

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