Chernobyl stands as a stark reminder of a deadly past and a possible future that may be revisited. Radiation still leaks to this day. Russia’s wildfires this year didn't help matters, spilling into the contaminated forests.
The long-overdue construction of the replacement for the confinement shelter over the ruins of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant’s contaminated unit has begun today in Ukraine after almost 25 years, according to Russia Today.
Known as the New Safe Confinement, or NSC, the French-based Vinci Construction will build the 108-meter tall sliding arch structure, covering the existing crumbling shelter. The $1.4 billion project will take 5 years to build, and the new shelter is expected to last for 100 years, which averages to 14 million dollars a year.
The Chernobyl Nuclear Accident
The world’s worst nuclear accident on April 26, 1986, eighty kilometers north of Kiev, was contained by the heroic efforts of constructions workers, who frequently rotated to avoid dangerous exposure. Within seven months, the damaged Unit #4 was enclosed by a massive steel enclosure, dubbed the "sarcophagus" by the media and simply known as the “shelter” by the locals.
However, the sarcophagus worked moderately at best. It was never meant to be a permanent structure. In 1997, the Chernobyl Shelter Fund was established at a G8 summit meeting in Denver. Funds were allotted for a more permanent construction to confine the nuclear radiation.
The exact circumstances of the explosion will probably never be known, as the persons involved, Akimov and Toptunov, died from radiation sickness.
According to The Truth About Chernobyl written by Grigori Medvedev, the young Toptunov, intimidated by his boss, went against his own judgement and increased the power that sparked the explosion, a force equivalent to ten Hiroshima bombs.
Although a 30 kilometer radius exclusion zone was established, nearly 5 million people still live in contaminated areas. Thirty deaths were immediately seen, but Greenpeace estimates 200,000 deaths were directly attributable to Chernobyl, in the last 15 years.
Chernobyl, nuclear disaster
The Chernobyl nuclear plant was not officially closed until 2000,Time reported.
Canadian Connection: Uranium
According to the World Nuclear Organization, Canada used to be the world's largest uranium producer, accounting for about 22% of world output, but in 2009 was overtaken by Kazakhstan.
The McArthur River uranium mine in northern Saskatchewan province is the largest in the world.
The Chernobyl disaster site has become a tourist attraction, some companies offering weekly tours, despite mild levels of radiation.
An amusement park was scheduled to open five days after the disaster. It would not see the light of day for what it was intended. Twenty years later, it stands as a museum for a bustling tourist industry.
A heartwrenching video of Chernobyl's children found here.