Contractor and cash for Chernobyl

09 August 2007

Ukrainian authorities have agreed with the European Bank for  Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) to enter into contracts for the construction of the Chernobyl New Safe Confinement. The bank has authorised spending around 70% of the project's cost.

Some €330 million ($451 million) was authorised as an initialallocation, as compared to the overall project cost of €470 million($642 million). The money will be spent with the French-led Novarka consortium, which includes Bouygyes and Vinci as well as German and Ukrainian firms. Contracts are expected to be signed within weeks and Novarka would then manage the construction of a gigantic arch to be placed over the broken remains of Chernobyl 4.

The structure, known as the New Safe Confinement (NSC), is meant to isolate radioactive debris in the building from the environment for the next 100 years. It will contain equipment and facilities to dismantle the existing 'sarcophagus' that was hastily built to cover the plant remains but that has badly deteriorated over the 21 years since the accident.

Engineers had become concerned that the sarcophagus could fail and cause another release of radioactive debris, but it has now been stabilized, mainly by the addition of a load-bearing scaffold alongside. Nevertheless, rain and snow are still currently able to enter the leaky shelter.

The NSC will be built in sections founded on teflon-coated rails and slid into place, to be tightly sealed around the plant building andsarcophagus.

Novarka reportedly submitted the lowest bid of two for the project, which was put to tender by the EBRD in 2004. Under the tender rules itwas the first to enter discussions, with the runner-upconsortium led by C2HM Hill to be brought in only if those with Novarka failed.

Novarka were initially selected, but this choice was declared invalid by Chernobyl managers. The selection and discussion process wasre-started, but reached the same conclusion.

In addition to the NSG allowance, the EBRD has also allocated €34million ($47 million) to the project for dry storage of used nuclear fuel from Chernobyl units 1, 2 and 3. The sum roughly matches costs for the design and prototyping first phase of the project.

Further information

Chernobyl NPP
Holtec International

WNA's Chernobyl Accident information paper

WNN: Decommissioning at Chernobyl
WNN: Dry storage progress at Chernobyl