Workers Complete Concrete Foundation under Ruined Reactor
MOSCOW (AP) _ Workers have completed a concrete foundation under the ruined No. 4 reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power station, finishing the project three days ahead of schedule, the Soviet media reported Monday.
An evening television program showed white-clad miners removing the last loads of dirt from tunnels under the reactor that were filled with concrete.
Radio Moscow reported earlier in the day that miners had built ″a monolithic reinforced concrete slab, which is supposed to create reliable protection from below.″
Officials have said they plan to entomb the reactor in a concrete ″coffin″ to seal off radiation for the hundreds of years needed for the fuel inside to decay.
The Radio Moscow report suggested the coffin around the ruins of the reactor, ripped open by an explosion April 26, will now be started. No estimates were given for how long the project will take.
A Soviet magazine, Ogonyek, reported that workers cleaning up at the disaster site have decided to try to preserve a fire truck that was one of the first to arrive at the scene. One of the truck’s crewmen died fighting the fire that followed the explosion.
Ogonyek said the truck is now mired in sand and highly radioactive.
The last official announcement on the death toll from the disaster, released June 5, said 26 people had died.
Ogonyek also described daily life for some of the cleanup workers. It said they drink so much bottled water and juice that they joke there are enough bottles to cover the ruined reactor. There are several thousand salvage workers in the zone and apparently all natural water sources have been shut off.
There has been no estimate on when the more than 100,000 evacuees from the northern Ukraine and southern Byelorussia, the regions close to the Chernobyl plant, might return home.
The English-language Moscow News, a Soviet newspaper, reported Sunday that work has resumed on six farms near the Chernobyl plant, but it said workers are allowed to till the land for only 10 days before being replaced by other men.
In a related development, scientists at a meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Munich, West Germany, said the Chernobyl accident showed the need for closer international cooperation to minimize the dangers of atomic power.
But Leonard Konstantinov, a Soviet scientist, said it ould be unreasonable to stop using nuclear energy because of the accident. ″What (Chernobyl) has done is make us aware it is necessary to have more international cooperation, and we are working on that,″ Konstantinov told The Associated Press.
Konstantinov was in Munich for a week-long seminar of about 150 nuclear energy experts. They plan to review emergency procedures for accidents at nuclear plants, discuss training of nuclear operators and other topics.