It seems that the Chernobyl reactor is sealed with a structure that will not hold. Not to worry; a new seal is being readied. But it's going to be weird.
Although nuclear worries are more prevalent than ever, it seemed like Chernobyl was safely past. The area around it had become a spectacular nature preserve. The local government had even begun to offer tours of the 1986 nuclear disaster site. But more trouble lurked, in the form of the 'sarcophagus'. The sarcophagus, a huge steel-and-concrete arch built quickly to contain the radiactivity emitted by the blown reactor, was only meant as a temporary measure. It's aging, falling into disrepair, and may collapse if hit by too hard a tremor. A replacement coffin is being built - to the tune of 2.1 billion dollars - and its details, while the only practical engineering solution, are very strange.
The new sarcophagus will start out as an arch so tall it could shelter the Statue of Liberty from rain. It will not be constructed on site, but will be put up quickly nearby from pre-fabricated parts. It will them slide forward towards the reactor on teflon - yes, teflon - bearings until it slides into place.
An arch alone isn't enough, even if it can serve as a bus shelter for giants. The old arch remains need to be dealt with. This is where the new sarcophagus will live up to its name. Robot arms will be built inside the structure. Once the structure is completely sealed, the robot arms will act as servants entombed with the reactor. The arms will take apart the old sarcophagus, and clean up any radioactive dust inside the structure. No word if they'll be painting the walls with messages warning any future people who break in that removing objects from the sarcophagus will lead to a horrible, early death. We can only assume they will.
Via Scientific American.