French-led consortium to build new shelter for Chernobyl's exploded reactor

Monday, September 3, 2007

PARIS A French-led consortium will build a new shelter to encase the reactor at Ukraine's Chernobyl power station that exploded in 1986 in history's worst nuclear accident.

The new shelter will enclose the existing concrete "sarcophagus" erected hastily after the 1986 accident, which has been crumbling and leaking radiation for more than a decade.

The contract for the Novarka consortium, including Bouygues SA and Vinci SA, will be worth more than €430 million (US$593.14 million), Vinci said in a statement Tuesday night.

The French-led group will build an arch-shaped metal confinement structure weighing 20,000 tons and measuring 105 meters (345 feet) tall and 150 meters (490 feet) long, Vinci said. The plan is to then dismantle the "sarcophagus" and the exploded reactor, within the protected confines of the new shelter, Vinci said.

Ukraine has sought international funding for years to replace it, but efforts have repeatedly stalled.

The project will be financed by an international fund managed by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, which pledged €368 million (US$507 million) this week for cleaning up Chernobyl.

Vinci gave no timeframe for the project. The ITAR-Tass news agency said the contracts will be signed Sept. 14-15 and the work will be completed in 2014-2015, along with the construction of a facility for storing spent nuclear fuel from Chernobyl's other reactors.

Chernobyl's reactor No. 4 exploded on April 26, 1986, spewing radiation over a large swath of the former Soviet Union and much of northern Europe. An area roughly half the size of Italy was contaminated, forcing the resettlement of hundreds of thousands of people

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