Battelle Engineers Helping in Global Effort To Secure Chernobyl - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Battelle Engineers Helping in Global Effort To Secure Chernobyl Site

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RICHLAND, Wash. -- More than 25 years ago, a reactor meltdown in Chernobyl Ukraine created one of the worst nuclear disasters in the world.

Today, there's a global effort underway to clean up the site, a project that was developed in part by staff at Battelle.

"The accident at Chernobyl left a long legacy..This is a chance for the international community to assist and partner with the government of Ukraine," said Joel Hoyt, the Project Manager who oversees Battelle's duties on the Shelter Implementation Plan, which is an unprecedented undertaking in terms of scope, complexity and ambition.

Many of the aims of the plan were first set out in 1997 by the European Commission, made of former countries of the Soviet Union. Europe banded together to achieve a few goals, first to stabilize the current Object Shelter that was placed over the site shortly after the April 1986 melt down. "It's had more than 25 years or rain and rust and so we wanted to replace it with a new structure," said Eric Schmeiman, a Technical Advisor with Battelle who has been working on the conceptual design on the New Safe Confinement since 2001.

The conceptual design was completed with Battelle's help in 2003 and the new dome is currently being built about 1/2 a mile outside of Chernobyl, so workers could avoid exposure to radioactivity. The actual town where Chernobyl stands was abandoned by 50,000 people and has 30 kilometer exclusion zone. 25,000 workers from 26 countries are living in a newly formed town of Slavutich, all working on the project. Currently, seven Battelle employees live in Slavutich and some of them relocated their families, including Joel Hoyt who moved there with his wife and two children for three years. "We didn't have to drive the kids all around the area to go to different events, their school. The activities they did participate in were within walking distance of our home," said Hoyt of the lay out. Hoyt described the town as a compacted Richland that is 1.2 miles across, and everything is within walking distance.

More than 40 countries and businesses across the world have financially contributed to the project, 29 countries are major financial contributors, funding the 2 billion dollar clean up.

The New Safe Confinement is two metal arches that span 257 meters, and is 105 meters tall which is equivalent to a 30 story-building or big enough to house the Statue of Liberty. The length covers150 meters which is two and a half football fields put together. "We'll be able to park 19 Boeing 747s 400 stretch jets wing tip to wing tip underneath this building," explained Schmeiman.the 29 thousand ton framework is made of tubular steel members built on two longitudinal concrete beams.

Once finished the new frame will slide over the existing Object Shelter. Inside, the New Safe Confinement will be equipped with fully-automated cranes and other equipment for deconstruction and other weight lifting and displacing operations. The contractual completion date is set for late 2015.

To see the animation of the project on YouTube, click here.