The Chernobyl disaster was caused by a nuclear plant accident that occurred on the 26th of April in 1986; when reactor no.4 in the Chernobyl nuclear power plant went unstable while performing a test. The disaster not only caused deaths and damage in property but the radiation exposure affected the lives of hundreds of people. Because of the radiation contamination in the air, the exposure went on to cause more than 4000 fatalities in the soviet states alone and about 9000 to 16000 fatalities throughout Europe.

Image 1 – Chernobyl’s new safe confinement © www.google.com

To reduce the spread from the wreckage and to protect it from weathering the protective Chernobyl nuclear power plant a sarcophagus was built by December 1886. It also protected the people of the undamaged reactors of the site, which continued operating. But due to the deterioration of the sarcophagus continued, it was further enclosed by the Chernobyl new safe confinement in 2017. It was a larger enclosure that allowed the removal of both the sarcophagus as well as the reactor debris while containing the radioactive hazard. 

The Chernobyl power plant alone produces 35% of Ukraine’s nuclear energy. And after the disaster, it gives out 10% of it. It is said that the Chernobyl still burns, as radiation still is contaminating the air of cities hundred miles away from the site.

So the necessity is to stop the radiation exposure or at least to keep it to the minimum. So when the sarcophagus was made, which in itself was a heroic task, it was a temporary solution to the problem. But even the sarcophagus was going to deteriorate with time due to the radiation. The people that came in contact with the radiation most of them died and got with no remains of them, blackened skin and dysfunctioning of internal organs were some effects of the radiation. After the reactor exploded people were rushed out of the city never to return, with their belongings left behind, they had no hope for the future. The entire city was vacated and now still stands as a deserted city because of the power plant disaster. Not only did it affect the lives of people, but it also gave out a huge economic loss.  

Necessity is the mother of invention. In this case, it was the mother of innovation. With time being the crucial factor, the power plant engineers had to think quickly with maximum effort to stop the radiation spread. It not only was going to be saving lives but also an architectural marvel. With technological advancements happening all around the world, it was not very difficult to build the structure. But the real challenge was to make the structure efficient within a certain time and with workers to not be affected by the radiation. Building a structure of the size of the sarcophagus and isolated the existing structure as it was, is also a task. 

The documentary mainly revolves around the story of the disaster, some inside views, and the challenges faced by the architects and engineers for the making of the safe. It took 3 years to complete the project, so building the structure on site was extremely difficult. Also having so many advancements in technology and everything else, the engineers made it seem like a piece of cake. All the hard work and labor put into something that will forever remain in the world is remarkable.

The documentary mainly revolves around the journey of the Chernobyl power plant engineers on how to contain the radiation and stop it from spreading. The confinement project itself is a lasting legacy, for the unprecedented challenges of the engineers to not only design a structure to isolate the radiation debris but also for making it comfortable enough for the workers to work in cleaning out the debris with ventilation systems, the drainage system, and also sealing the structure as on monolithic structure. The old sarcophagus was soon leaking and had massive holes in it. The damage repair had to be done soon. The problem, to which the solution was made, was to isolate the environment from the radioactive dust in the air. While the documentary does explain everything in itself, here are some things I particularly felt about-

It is almost overwhelming to see how something that happened so long ago still has generations of minds wrapped around itself. It’s also shocking how big problems often just require a simpler solution. The journey of the new safe confinement from start to finish would’ve been very difficult and overwhelming for the workers as well. This is an architectural and engineering marvel that was made with so many challenges that it proves that innovation will keep on going until the necessity is there.

Author

Lakshita is an architecture student with a passion for both writing and making the words come true. She believes words have the power to move people so she tries to do the same through her words. She thrives to make people empathize with things sensitive enough for empathy. She is persistent when putting on a job and can be stubborn on her points sometimes and will always have a certain way of doing things and will put her heart and soul to help anyone.

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