The roof that collapsed was installed after the 1986 nuclear disaster
A section of the roof at Ukraine’s Chernobyl nuclear plant has collapsed – but there has been no increase in radiation at the site, authorities say.
No-one was hurt when the roof over a turbine hall gave way under heavy snow.
The “sarcophagus” used to seal off the failed reactor was unaffected, officials said, but around 80 construction workers were moved away.
The 1986 explosion and reactor meltdown at Chernobyl was the world’s worst-ever nuclear accident.
Correspondents say the roof collapse will revive concerns about the condition of the defunct power plant.
“There are no changes in the radiation situation at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant or in the exclusion zone,” Chernobyl’s administrators said in a statement.
The affected area was about 50m (165 feet) away from the sarcophagus built to contain leaking radiation from the exploded reactor, Chernobyl spokeswoman Maya Rudenko told the Associated Press.
“Everyone should stay calm,” Ms Rudenko said. “Yes it is unpleasant, but there is no danger.”
Ukrainian officials released a photo showing the affected area
A huge new containment structure is currently being built to slide over the reactor, amid concerns about the long-term viability of the existing encasement.
The concrete shell is being built by French construction companies and funded by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, as well as other donors. After the roof collapse, two firms, Vinci and Bouygues, moved their workers away from the site as a precaution.
The explosion at Chernobyl’s number four reactor in 1986 – when Ukraine was still part of the Soviet Union – sent a huge plume of radiation across Europe.
Hundreds of thousands of people were evacuated from their homes in Ukraine, western Russia and Belarus.
The number of people who died because of the accident remains controversial, but thousands are thought to be at higher risk of cancer as a result of exposure to radiation.
The area around the plant is heavily contaminated and a 30km (19 mile) exclusion zone is in force.
||Kiev Oblast, Pripyat [Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant]
|Ukrainian officials say a roof section at the exploded Chernobyl nuclear power plant has collapsed causing no injuries and leaving radiation levels unaffected. Maya Rudenko, spokeswoman for the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, said a 600-square-metre section of the roof over the turbine hall at energy block No 4 collapsed on Tuesday. Rudenko emphasised, however, that the affected area is about 50 metres away from the exploded reactor. She said on Wednesday that radiation levels were normal and there was no danger to the public, so “everybody should be absolutely calm.” The Emergency Situations Ministry said that the roof collapse was caused by heavy snowfall. The April 1986 explosion at Chernobyl has forced the evacuation of 115,000 people and a 30-kilometre area around the plant remains largely off-limits.
||Wednesday, 13 February, 2013 at 20:01 UTC
|Officials in Ukraine were rushing to reassure the public that radiation levels remained unaffected after the 6,500 square foot section of roof over the turbine hall at the fourth power block collapsed under heavy snowfall. French construction firms Vinci and Bouygues they had evacuated around 80 employees as a precaution. The two companies are working on constructing the sarcophagus structure covering the reactor that exploded in 1986. The structure is in place to contain radiation emanating from the exploded reactor. “Everybody should be absolutely calm,” a Chernobyl spokesman said. “Yes, it is unpleasant, but there is no danger.”
The April 26, 1986, accident in the then-Soviet republic of Ukraine sent a cloud of radioactive fallout over much of Europe and forced the evacuation of about 115,000 people from the plant’s vicinity. A 30-kilometre (19-mile) area directly around the plant remains largely off-limits. A new, giant, arch-shaped confinement is currently being constructed over the old sarcophagus. The construction of the new shelter was not affected by the accident, said Anton Usov, spokesman for the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, which runs the $2 billion project co-sponsored by the bank and international donors. “The old shelter was not affected, the new safe confinement was not affected either,” Usov said. The workers are expected to return as soon as an investigation into the accident is completed and the roof is reinforced in order to prevent water from getting inside.
The Chernobyl spokesman said that Ukrainian workers at the plant have not been evacuated or ordered to implement any additional safety measures. “We are not wearing face masks, we have not been evacuated, which is what would have happened had there been danger,” she stated. Some environmentalists expressed concern. “Even if the radiation level has not changed, it’s still an alarming signal,” Vladimir Chuprov, head of the energy program at Greenpeace Russia, said, according to the Interfax news agency. “If the panels in the turbine hall have collapsed, then in principle there is no guarantee that the sarcophagus, built in 1986, will not start falling apart in the near future.”