On April 26, 1986, the core of a reactor opened at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, sending plumes of radioactive material into the air. The toxic fumes not only contaminated the local vegetation and water supply, but also poisoned nearby residents, some of whom went on to develop cancer.AdvertisementThe damage might have been worse had Soviet workers not built a massive covering around the reactor to contain the debris. Although the "sarcophagus" was fashioned from steel and concrete, the hastiness of the construction allowed water to seep in, and the structure began corroding.
Now, workers have to dismantle the shell before it comes tumbling down (and releases even more radioactive material). Take a look at the sarcophagus' rise and fall after the Chernobyl disaster.
On April 26, 1986, an explosion and fire at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant spewed plumes of radioactive materials into the air.
Less than two months after the disaster, Soviet cleanup workers scrambled to build a "sarcophagus," or massive covering, to contain the debris.
The covering was designed to be sturdy — it relied on 400,000 cubic meters of concrete and about 16 million pounds of steel.
The hasty construction took seven months.
The process exposed many workers to dangerous levels of radiation.
In 1988, Soviet scientists revealed that the sarcophagus had only been designed to last for 20 to 30 years.
After the fall of the Soviet Union, the Ukrainian government launched an international design competition to come up with potential replacements for the sarcophagus.
The Ukrainian government approved that design in 2004, and awarded the contract to build a sliding arch to Novarka, a French consortium of two construction groups.
At the same time, the sarcophagus was running into structural problems. The roof was putting too much weight on the reactor walls.
The new structure is designed to last for 100 years.
Construction began in 2010, and the basic framework was put in place by 2014.
The completed shell was rolled into its final location in November 2016.
Construction took another three years to finish, since workers had to limit their hours to avoid radiation exposure.
A few weeks after the shell was finished, experts revealed that the sarcophagus had a "very high" probability of collapse.
Now, construction workers will have to reinforce the sarcophagus again while its parts get disassembled.
Once the sarcophagus is torn down, workers will begin the gargantuan task of cleaning up radioactive waste.