As reported in the National Post, on April 26, 1986, nuclear reactor no. 4 exploded at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine during a botched safety test. The explosion — and the resulting fire that engulfed part of the plant — caused a massive amount of radioactive contamination to spread in the surrounding areas. Nearby communities, especially the city of Pripyat, had to be evacuated due to the contamination.
In an attempt to contain as much of the radioactive materials as possible, 600,000 workers from the USSR quickly began to build a large structure around the destroyed reactor, often without the necessary protective gear. Workers rushed to fill in open spaces with thousands of cubic metres of concrete, helicopters dropped debris directly into the reactor, and miners dug to prevent searing nuclear runoff from melting through the foundation of the base and into the ground below.
The entire section of the facility was covered by massive concrete walls — its ominous appearance gave it the nickname the “sarcophagus”.
In the end, the structure was able to prevent hundreds of tonnes of radioactive contaminants from getting out. Thirty-one people died of radiation poisoning during or after construction was completed.
The sarcophagus had to be set up as fast as possible — construction only took about five months — and was never built to last. LiveScience reports that the building lacks bolted joints, and openings in the roof have allowed water to seep in and corrode the structure. Now, more than 30 years after its construction, its collapse is imminent.
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