International experts voice concerns over Chernobyl reactor casing

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KIEV, September 7 (RIA Novosti) - Structural components of the sarcophagus housing the remains of Chernobyl's nuclear plant's fourth reactor are damaged, and are in danger of breaking and releasing radioactive matter, the Chernobyl Forum said in Ukrainian newspaper Segodnya.

The press service of the Ukrainian Emergencies Ministry said the current casing will remain safe long enough for a new "arch" to be built over the sarcophagus.

The new shelter will be in the form of an arch, 100 meters high and 250 meters wide. It will be assembled at a safe place near the reactor, and then mounted over the old casing.

A tender will be held for the construction of the shelter at the end of November, the press service said. Work will then begin work on the shelter's construction, involving 3,000 highly paid specialists.

Some international experts estimate that around 4,000 people have died since an explosion all but destroyed the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in April 1986 and released radioactive emissions that badly contaminated large areas of the western Soviet Union. Around 600,000 "liquidators" involved in the cleanup operation were exposed to high levels of radiation. Around 4,000 people who were exposed to radiation from the reactor, mainly children, were diagnosed with thyroid cancer.

The Chernobyl Forum includes eight UN agencies, the World Bank, Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine.

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