The Chernobyl Problem

by Vladimir Novokshchenov, P.E., Consultant; Concrete Clinic Int., Gibsonia, PA,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 2002, Vol. 72, Issue 5, Pg. 74-83

Document Type: Feature article


When the infamous accident at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant occurred in April 1986—a catastrophe that involved an explosion that blew off the top of one of the plant's four operating reactors and ignited the reactor's core—the resulting clean-up efforts focused on stabilizing the situation more than making sure that the shelter erected to stabilize the site was structurally sound. In 1996 a European team of experts analyzed the results of previous studies and concluded that the shelter needed immediate attention. The shelter's poor condition was a result of localized damage, overloading, large displacements, and deviations from the relevant construction codes during its construction. A collapse with dangerous consequence was seen as probable within a short time period. One solution is an arch confinement that would enclose the shelter and the plant's northern cascade wall and turbine hall. It would comprise an 80-m high arch cover having a span 260 m, along with western and eastern walls and foundations. The arch would consist of several segments, each a steel structure consisting of two internal and four external arches interconnected by tubular elements. The arch cover would rest on northern and southern foundations, each a cast-in-place slab of reinforced concrete supported by short piles.

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