December 08, 2005

Chernobyl News: Resettlement, More Tourism, and Removal of Nuclear Fuel from Closed Reactor Units

Crews have begun dismantling the remaining nuclear fuel stockpile from the closed reactors at Chernobyl, including the only recently-decommissioned Reactor 3 (the unit involved in the 1986 explosion was Reactor 4). From the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, via AP:
KIEV, Ukraine -- Experts have begun unloading radioactive fuel from one of the closed reactors at Ukraine's Chernobyl nuclear power plant, the plant said Tuesday.

Reactor No 3. - the last to continue operating - was closed for good in 2000, but it was never emptied of fuel. The remaining fuel in reactor No. 3 and reactor No. 1 made it impossible to start construction of a new shelter over the fourth reactor, destroyed in the 1986 explosion and fire that spewed radiation over much of northern Europe.

In an effort to prevent further radiation release, engineers hastily erected a concrete-and-steel shelter over the damaged reactor, but parts of it are crumbling, and a new shelter is needed. Originally officials had planned to unload the remaining fuel into a new storage depot, but plans for its construction were suspended until 2010. The plant's spokesman, speaking on customary condition of anonymity, said the fuel will instead be unloaded into a Soviet-era used fuel depot. Unloading the fuel, which began Monday, is necessary to make the plant entirely inoperative, Chernobyl staff said.
In other Chernobyl news, Pravda reports the Ukraine is seeking to boost national revenue by offering more tours of the ravaged Exclusion Zone to foreign travelers, and RIA Novosti News says Ukrainian president Viktor Yushchenko has instructed Kiev officials to begin legalizing the homes of squatters who have moved in the area without permission.

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