More than thirty years after the world's worst nuclear disaster, a crumbling concrete and lead shelter called the "sarcophagus" that spared Europeans from fatal radioactive fallout has been replaced—by an even larger, more immense steel structure known as the New Safe Confinement.
Effectively a giant steel arch that's 275 meters wide, the shield fits over the original protective structure at Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant's fourth reactor. The original construction was hurriedly built by the Soviets in the wake of the 1986 catastrophe, but not before a toxic radioactive cloud swept across Europe with the fallout eventually killing more than 4,000 people due to radiation exposure, according to the World Health Organisation.
The New Safe Confinement, christened this week by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, cost more than $1.5 billion dollars and should be effective at keeping a lid on the radiation for more than 100 years—well past the 2065 target date for a full clean-up of the site.
While we could pummel you with all sorts of gargantuan facts about the shield, such as its weight of 36,000 tons and its Statue of Liberty-dwarfing height of 108 meters (about 354 feet), it's probably just best to let you watch this drone-shot video of the structure shot before it was slid into place.
The structure had to be inched into place over a period of weeks, and its sponsor, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), says the facility won't be up and running until the end of next year when the final radiation control equipment is installed and it is made airtight.
From there, two remotely operated cranes will dissemble the original shelter. Suma Chakrabarti, EBRD president, said in a statement, "The old shelter has now disappeared from our sight, but we're never going to forget the human toll of the 1986 accident and we owe our thoughts today to the victims of that accident."
Get six of our favorite Motherboard stories every day by signing up for our newsletter.