On 26 April 1986, the worst nuclear power plant accident in history occurred at the Chernobyl plant in Ukraine (then part of the Soviet Union). The destruction of Unit 4 sent highly radioactive fallout over Belarus, Russia, Ukraine, and Europe. The object shelter — a containment sarcophagus — was built in November 1986 to limit exposure to radiation. However, it has only a planned 25-year lifespan and would probably not survive even a moderate seismic event in a region that has more than its share of such events. It was time to take action.
One of the largest tasks that are in progress is the design and construction of the New Safe Confinement (NSC). The NSC is an engineered enclosure for the entire object shelter that includes a suite of process equipment. The process equipment will be used for the dismantling of the destroyed Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant Unit. One of the major mechanical handling systems to be installed in the new safe confinement is the Main Cranes System.
The planned decontamination and decommissioning or dismantling activities will require the handling of heavily shielded waste disposal casks containing nuclear fuel as well as lifting and transporting extremely large structural elements. These activities, to be performed within the new safe confinement, will require large and sophisticated cranes. The article will focus on the current progress of the new safe confinement and of the main cranes system for the decommissioning or dismantling activities.