During the first week of March, I saw deep trenches and large steel piles here meant for the foundation of the arch. Currently, the goal is to finish the New Safe Confinement by 2014, although contractors are giving themselves a year leeway. "Keep in mind, this is a one-of-a-kind structure, and nothing like this has ever been attempted," Schmieman cautions. "Further, Chernobyl is one of the most hazardous working sites in the world, and we frequently discover unexpected radiological hazards in excavation works. The combination of these factors introduces many uncertainties into any schedule."
In addition, some of the money needed to complete the project has yet to be raised. Twenty-nine countries have pledged funds to the Shelter Implementation Plan creating the New Safe Confinement, but so far another $835 million are needed; also, the storage facility designed to hold spent nuclear fuel from reactor Nos. 1 to 3 still requires funding to the tune of $195 million . Fundraising events to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the disaster in April are now underway, according to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, which is managing these efforts.
"I am fully aware that this is a considerable amount of money which is particularly difficult to raise at a time of universal fiscal constraints," Thomas Mirow, president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, said in a statement. "Nevertheless, we must not forget that it is in the best interest of Ukraine and the international community to bring to a successful conclusion the important work we have started in Chernobyl."
The sacrifices made by the clean up workers immediately after the Chernobyl tragedy are driving those at the project to work to a much higher standard, says structural engineer Randy Jorissen , deputy manager for technical direction for the New Safe Confinement. "All they did to limit the extreme disaster, giving their lives for the task—I just hope we learned our lesson and that it never happens again," he says. "It's very satisfying to me to be part of a very significant effort to bring to a conclusion what those heroes started 25 years ago."
Chernobyl: Timeline of a Tragedy