Chernobyl’s $1.4 Billion Containment Dome

Chernobyl +30 – A Look From the Inside with Lucas Hixson

(April 2016)

Chernobyl +30 is a webnar presentation to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster. In this segment, US nuclear engineer Lucas Hixson briefly summarizes the causes of the Chernobyl accident, the initial clean-up efforts by the Soviets, and the current extent of nuclear contamination in an exclusion zone the size of Rhode Island.

Hixson spent ten days at the Chernobyl site at the end of 2015 for an update on the $1.4 billion* containment dome Bechtel is building to prevent further radiation release. The largest man made structure ever built, the dome will replace the sarcophagus the Soviets placed over the site in 1987. The latter has become contaminated and is emitting gamma radiation. Bechtel’s $1.4 billion dome is predicted to last 100 years.

For me, the most interesting part of the presentation concerns the precautions taken to minimize tje radiation dose experienced by the 3,500 workers who are dismantling the sarcophagus. As Hixson points out, they are all younger workers with no direct experience of the devastating health problems workers and residents experienced after the Chernobyl explosion. It’s his impression they have minimal awareness of the immense hazards of their work.

Hixson’s presentation begins at 5:23.

* Hixson doesn’t mention how Ukraine (which is currently bankrupt and undergoing IMF restructuring) is paying for the containment done. According to the Washington Post, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development is managing the project, which they are funding through international donations. The US has contribution $410 million.