Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster's New $1.5bn Confinement Structure is Amazing, Terrifying and Heartbreaking

By Gerald Lynch on at

There's been no greater ecological disaster than the Chernobyl nuclear plant meltdown. Approaching 30 years since the April 1986 event which saw a power surge trigger a series of events that would lead to a reactor vessel rupture, the area near Pripyat, Ukraine, is still reeling from the fallout. It will be thousands of years until the region will be habitable again, and the damaging effects on the health of those living near the disaster zone are still being discovered today.

In the immediate aftermath of the meltdown, a damage limitation exercise saw officials create a "concrete sarcophagus" for the power plant, an attempt to dull the damaging radiation being produced. But it was only ever intended as a temporary measure, and soon this shelter object will be retired, to be replaced by a $1.5 billion confinement structure. An amazing feat of engineering, it's been designed to stand for 100 years, containing the radiation while a long-term solution for the deathly waste is conceived.

Standing near the ruins of the V.I. Lenin Nuclear Power Station, it also holds the record for being the world's largest movable structure – too dangerous to spend many years building over the epicentre of the radioactive zone, the 100-metre arch will be dragged with steel cables in place of the existing shelter object on its single, one-time only journey. It's an inspiring structure to behold, though heartbreaking that such a disaster could have ever occurred, an indelible mark humanity leaves on the planet. It's perhaps even more terrifying to attempt to comprehend what happens if, after the structure's 100 year lifetime expires, we've yet to conjure the means of cleaning up Chernobyl once and for all.

YouTuber Tom Scott recently visited the site. You can catch him in the video below, which gives you a good feel for the monumental scale of the project, and just how much is riding on its success. [YouTube]