Structure containing Chornobyl reactor’s radioactive dust now operational

A structure built over the Chornobyl nuclear power plant’s damaged fourth reactor and designed to confine radioactive dust from the reactor at the centre of the 1986 disaster is up and running.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy formally opened the “new safe confinement” shelter near the city of Pripyat. The shelter spans the remains of the Chornobyl nuclear power plant’s Reactor No. 4.

The structure cost about $2.5 billion US and took nine years to complete. Officials have described it as the largest moveable land-based structure ever built.

Reactor No. 4 at the Chornobyl plant in Soviet Ukraine exploded and burned on April 26, 1986. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) says the initial explosion resulted in the death of two workers, and 28 firefighters and emergency cleanup workers died in the first three months, one from cardiac arrest and the other two from acute radiation sickness.

The World Health Organization’s cancer research arm estimates 9,000 people will die of Chornobyl-related cancer and leukemia if the health effects follow a similar pattern to the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings.