Bechtel, the global engineering, construction, and project management firm, today congratulated an international team at Chernobyl for successfully concluding a critical test that signifies the completion of a decades-long effort to protect the environment. The massive containment arch is now complete and in place over the damaged reactor – 33 years to the day after the 1986 accident.
The arch, known as New Safe Confinement, will protect the environment from further releases of radioactive materials, and protect the damaged reactor from weather, tornado, and seismic events. Bechtel led the consortium that designed the sports-stadium-sized arch that was slid over the reactor in 2016. Today, Bechtel is the project management unit, ensuring that engineering and construction meet the plant owner’s strict quality requirements. Since 2016, crews have added walls to both ends of the arch and installed equipment to allow future dismantling of the damaged building and reactor with remote-operated cranes and tools.
The arch is the largest movable land structure ever built – massive enough to cover several Statues of Liberty.
“This is the day we’ve been working toward” said Oscar “Mac” McNeil, Bechtel’s project manager at the Chernobyl site. “With construction and testing complete, we will soon turn over the facility and all systems to the plant operators. It’s an accomplishment that required international cooperation and ingenuity to overcome the challenges presented by radiation and the environment around the plant, not the mention the Ukrainian winters.”
Chernobyl’s reactor No. 4 melted down in 1986. A concrete covering, hastily built over the reactor, developed cracks and became unstable, prompting the need for a longer-term solution.
Bechtel is under contract to the State Specialized Enterprise – Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. Also playing key roles on the team are the French consortium NOVARKA, who constructed the arch, and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, which has financed the project along with more than 40 donor nations.
- weighs 40,000 tons
- measures 345 feet tall, 540 feet long, and spans 840 feet
- is made of more than 80 elements held together with 600,000 bolts.
Bechtel is a leader in environmental cleanup and restoration of former nuclear weapons production sites and decommissioning of commercial nuclear plants. The company’s experience spans nearly 40 years and includes the cleanup, remediation, and closure of nuclear waste sites in the states of Washington, Idaho, New Mexico, Tennessee, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina in the U.S. and at the Sellafield site in the UK.