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Da Svedanya, Chernobyl

Posted December 21, 2016 10:43 AM by HUSH

As of last month, the site of Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant looks nothing like it used to.

In the half-year after the infamous nuclear meltdown of reactor 4 at Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in April 1986, Soviet authorities hastily constructed the Shelter Object, which is the official name of the steel and concrete sarcophagus that contains more than 220 tons of highly radioactive isotopes and another 5,500 tons of debris and equipment, including 95% of the fuel that was present at the time of the meltdown.

The sarcophagus was constructed to protect people, namely those energy workers still running reactors 1,2 and 3, the “liquidators” who were tasked with the dealing with the meltdown’s aftermath, as well as the 50,000 people who had been evacuated from neighboring Pripyat, Ukraine, and were expected to one day be able to return home (spoiler alert: they weren’t). But to the Soviet Union, construction of the Shelter Object was also arguably an attempt to scrub the image of the destroyed reactor from the public eye and move on with its nuclear projects. Yet the Shelter Object was meant to be an interim solution from the beginning.

Due to extreme radioactivity at the site, the final assembly of the Shelter Object was completed by remotely-controlled 1980s robots, but this left many seams along the building’s exterior, risking contaminant leaks. The Shelter Object was also built on top of the existing reactor structures that were damaged in the initial steam explosion of the reactor. Should the roof or walls of reactor 4 collapse, large volumes of contaminated dust and debris would exit the quarantine zone.

In 2007, Ukraine awarded a €432 million (closer to €1 billion, today) contract to a French construction partnership named Novarka. More than 100 engineers worked on the design of what would temporarily become the largest mobile structure in the world. Named New Safe Confinement, the goals of the structure are to prevent future contaminant leaks even if a full or partial collapse of the Shelter Object occurred, as well as offer a means to isolate the dismantlement of Shelter Object and reactor 4.

Last November, the NSC slid into position, enveloping the Shelter Object over reactor 4, minus the reactor’s original chimney. The NSC is composed of 13 arches of tubular steel that give the building a final footprint of 656 ft. x 787 ft. x 361 ft. NSC is actually big enough to create its own weather inside, but engineers want to keep humidity below 40%. A 12 m gap exists between the roof and ceiling of the NSC, and the air in this space is heated several degrees above ambient and routed through desiccant dryers. Exposed steel work also has layers of polycarbonate. All of this adds up to a corrosion-free structure that will last more than 100 years.

The area immediately around reactor 4 is too radioactive to build near. Instead, NSC was constructed 600 m away, and because radiation exposure levels increase significantly above 30 m, all construction had to take place relatively close to the ground. So the ceiling roof of NSC was constructed first and propped up while workers completed the lower arch segments in sections. The flat side walls were mostly completed but left gaps for the Shelter Object to fit through. Once in place, workers will take spring and summer of 2017 finishing the side walls to create an air tight fit. In the last photo, the walls that will swing down to complete this are visible.

Moving the NSC from its build site to its final position took 15 days. At nearly 40,000 lb., one would expect a lot of energy is needed to move the NSC into place. Yet the archway was built on extra-large Teflon bearing links that slide along rails. Engineers were actually more worried about decelerating the NSC once it was in place or braking it from the effects of wind loads.

The NSC also had a secondary objective, which was to aid in the dismantling of the weakened Shelter Object roof and reactor walls, which must be done without ground labor. Two remote controlled cranes are suspended from gantries of the archway, both outfitted with interchangeable attachments of robotic arms, a core drill, concrete crusher and suction devices. These will also be able to transport scientists within the NSC within a shielded personnel carriage.

Images of Chernobyl have become easily identifiable and are typically offered as grim reminders of the potential of nuclear power. The first chapter of Chernobyl’s life provided jobs and power to a large portion of Ukraine. The second chapter ruined the lives of hundreds of thousands and badly damaged the reputation of nuclear energy forever. The third chapter, written by a corrupt government, was as much cover-up as remediation. Finally, more than 30 years after the reactor 4 meltdown, Chernobyl appears ready for its happy(ish) ending.

No one will forget about the Chernobyl disaster, but the imagery associated with it going forward is certainly going to be different.

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#1

Re: Da Svedanya, Chernobyl

12/21/2016 11:49 AM

Images of Chernobyl have become easily identifiable and are typically offered as grim reminders of the potential of (poorly designed) nuclear power (plants)...

This flawed design has been discontinued and the existing plants refitted with several safety updates...There are still 11 RBMK reactor types in Russia...

..."The RBMK is an early Generation II reactor and the oldest commercial reactor design still in wide operation. Certain aspects of the RBMK reactor design, such as the positive void coefficient properties, the graphite-tipped control rods and instability at low power levels, contributed to the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, in which an RBMK exploded during a mishandled test, and radioactivity was released over a large portion of Europe."...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RBMK

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#5
In reply to #1

Re: Da Svedanya, Chernobyl

12/21/2016 1:51 PM

True. I'm personally a proponent a nuclear power. Even considering Fukushima, the vast majority of nuclear plants will never be extended beyond their maximum credible accident, and the Japanese knew how #$%^ed they'd be if a tsunami ever hit, but never considered it a serious risk.

One of the first links in the post links to a blog by chem_e from a few years ago. Chernobyl was poorly designed and poorly ran by a country that was scraping by during the waning years of the Cold War.

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#28
In reply to #5

Re: Da Svedanya, Chernobyl

12/27/2016 6:50 PM

Even considering Fukushima .... Fukushima was a disaster waiting to happen.

Who, in their right mind would place your redundant back-up systems, pumps, generators at or below grade level in a Tsunami zone? Which was the cause of the disaster and melt down.

Many people that live in or near coastal harbors where the US Navy comes to port, don't realize that a ship (with a mobile reactor) is sitting docked in their neighborhood and possibly being nuclear refueled, San Diego and San Francisco/ Oakland, CA. Seattle, WA. on the West Coast and Norfolk, VA plus many other areas that are not disclosed.

Sorry, but with all the craze for EV's, computers, smartphones, etc. the power has to come from somewhere. Wind farms kill birds and only operate while the wind blows, PV panels only produce while there's light and toxic to the environment and the storage devices, geothermal has a limited supply and toxic to the environment, Hydro-dams kill the fish and the environment (in the foot print of the "pond") and God forbid the dam breaks

So, where are going to get the electricity to power all are modern day devices?

It's unfortunate you only hear about the disasters and not about the other nuclear units that's been running peacefully 50+ years

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#2

Re: Da Svedanya, Chernobyl

12/21/2016 12:44 PM

da svedanya Commonly translated as goodbye (in Russian). That's not wrong, but not exactly accurate, either. "See ya later," would be closer, or more formally, "Until we meet again." Literally: "To the meeting."

http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=da%20svedanya

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#3
In reply to #2

Re: Da Svedanya, Chernobyl

12/21/2016 12:51 PM

Speaking in terms of radioactive half-lives, I'd say "da svedanya" is most apropos here. How long is this stuff 'hot'? The area surrounding the reactor is expected to remain dangerous for another 20,000 years.

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#6
In reply to #3

Re: Da Svedanya, Chernobyl

12/21/2016 1:51 PM

Hey, if we can live on Mars, I don't see a little radiation as any serious obstacle to utilizing this land...

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#4
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Re: Da Svedanya, Chernobyl

12/21/2016 1:43 PM

I took a year of Russian in university. I was always more fond of the friendly "Paka" anyhow.

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#22
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Re: Da Svedanya, Chernobyl

12/22/2016 3:09 PM

Not to get too picky, but da svedanya (До свидания) is Russian, not Ukrainian. Given the current civil war there, I'm sure both sides would rather that be clear.

In Ukrainian, До побачення is goodbye or Добридень translates to good day.

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#7

Re: Da Svedanya, Chernobyl

12/21/2016 6:28 PM

Back in another lifetime (when I worked a a Penn State regional campus near Philadelphia) our campus hosted a Russian general who was involved in the immediate shutdown/evacuation/cleanup at Chernobyl. He visited the campus library and presented me with a copy of his book, in Russian, about his role in trying to ameliorate the disaster. Very courtly person, spoke English OK. My one year of college Russian did help much since what I remembered was "I killed the merchant with a big knife." Don't remember even that much now.

Somehow the catalogers at Penn State never got around to cataloging the book.

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#8

Re: Da Svedanya, Chernobyl

12/21/2016 8:59 PM

I've watched a few documentaries on Chernobyl over the years and all the study work they have done seem to say that nature is cleaning up the radiation way faster than ever expected plus has show itself to have far less biological impact and effects than expected as well.

It has also shown how incredibly fast nature will retake and remove any evidence that were were ever here too!

It really shows just how insignificant all our work and actions are on this planet is in every aspect.

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#9
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Re: Da Svedanya, Chernobyl

12/21/2016 9:31 PM

This is interesting ...

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#10

Re: Da Svedanya, Chernobyl

12/22/2016 12:00 AM

" Should the roof or walls of reactor 4 collapse, large volumes of contaminated dust and debris would exit the quarantine zone ".

When they say, " the quarantine zone ", does that mean the planet Earth ?

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Re: Da Svedanya, Chernobyl

12/22/2016 8:13 AM

eventually

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#12

Re: Da Svedanya, Chernobyl

12/22/2016 10:45 AM

I just searched for the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant on Google Maps/Earth and it's actually quite interesting.

It looks like the "NSC" was still under construction at the time of the photograph. Also, definitely eerie to see the neighboring Pripyat and know that it is completely abandoned.

I was even more interested to find that, apparently, Reactor 4 has business hours (albeit, they are only open for 24 hours on Mondays...). The business has outstanding reviews. Only a handful of people gave it a poor rating, mostly on account of explosions.

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#13
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Re: Da Svedanya, Chernobyl

12/22/2016 10:47 AM

"... mostly on account of explosions"

Visitors to select Middle Eastern countries have submitted similar reviews.

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#14
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Re: Da Svedanya, Chernobyl

12/22/2016 10:49 AM

Well, if any of that is true,... or not, that would bring up some issues... whether it has some type of 'controlled venting'

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#15
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Re: Da Svedanya, Chernobyl

12/22/2016 10:59 AM

And what is being vented, and to where.

For my part I think the closest I'll get to that area is imagery taken from the ISS.

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#16
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Re: Da Svedanya, Chernobyl

12/22/2016 11:09 AM

heat, water ==> steam?.... don't know, not an expert, but the post I responded to when it was just in jest or not, did bring up a possibility...

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#17
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Re: Da Svedanya, Chernobyl

12/22/2016 11:22 AM

Was thinking more of the radioactivity contained in such a release, it being Chernobyl an' all.

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#18
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Re: Da Svedanya, Chernobyl

12/22/2016 11:26 AM

well, that's the problem.

First containment of radiation. but a blast that may be initiated by the crumbling structure inside.... that could erase the containment issue and now we start all over.... except with a surge in radioactivity in the air.

I'm just bantering and throwing things around.

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#19
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Re: Da Svedanya, Chernobyl

12/22/2016 2:04 PM
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#20
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Re: Da Svedanya, Chernobyl

12/22/2016 2:23 PM

there was a story, I think I saw it on CR4 pertaining to alchemy where some of the reactions to the material (can't recall if it was lead or what) did turn into gold. at least trace amounts.

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#21
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Re: Da Svedanya, Chernobyl

12/22/2016 2:29 PM
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#23
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Re: Da Svedanya, Chernobyl

12/25/2016 12:49 PM

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#24
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Re: Da Svedanya, Chernobyl

12/25/2016 12:59 PM

The famous 'Elephant's Foot,' the image grainy from radiation.

Amazing that guy was in there without so much as a basic respirator. <smh>

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#25

Re: Da Svedanya, Chernobyl

12/26/2016 11:46 PM

40,000 lbs- hmmm, I wonder if someone forgot some zeros!

An interesting read nonetheless.

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#26
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Re: Da Svedanya, Chernobyl

12/26/2016 11:57 PM

Not missing zeros: incorrect units and a bit of rounding. The NCB weighs 36,000 tons - 72 million pounds.

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#27
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Re: Da Svedanya, Chernobyl

12/27/2016 12:11 AM

Thanks, sounds much better!

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