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Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant

Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant
Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station, viewed from the roof of a building in Pripyat, Ukraine
Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant is located in Ukraine
Location of Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine
Location Prypiat
Status Decommissioned
Construction began 15 August 1972
Commission date 1977
Decommission date 2000
Owner(s) Government of Ukraine
Operator(s) State Agency in Administration of Exclusion Zone
Power generation
Units operational 0
Units decommissioned 4 x 1,000 MW
Nameplate capacity 4,000
Annual generation 0 GW·h
Reactor status:
  • Reactor number 1 shutdown
  • Reactor number 2 shutdown
  • Reactor number 3 shutdown
  • Reactor number 4 destroyed in Chernobyl Disaster
  • Reactor number 5 never completed
  • Reactor number 6 never completed
Chernobyl's location in Ukraine.
Monument and the fourth reactor.

The Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant or Chornobyl Nuclear Power Station (Ukrainian: Чорнобильська атомна електростанція, Russian: Чернобыльская АЭС) is a decommissioned nuclear power station near the city of Pripyat, Ukraine, 14.5 km (9.0 mi) northwest of the city of Chornobyl, 16 km (9.9 mi) from the Ukraine–Belarus border, and about 110 km (68 mi) north of Kiev. Reactor No. 4 was the site of the Chernobyl disaster in 1986 and the power plant is now within a large restricted area known as the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. Both the zone and the former power plant are administered by the State Agency in Administration of Exclusion Zone (Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources).

The nuclear power plant site is to be cleaned by 2065. On January 3, 2010, a Ukrainian law stipulating a programme toward this objective came into effect.[1]


  • Construction 1
    • Electrical systems 1.1
    • Turbo generators 1.2
  • Reactor fleet 2
  • Accidents 3
    • 1982 Reactor No. 1 3.1
    • 1986 Disaster Reactor No. 4 3.2
    • 1991 fire Reactor No. 2 3.3
    • 2013 collapse 3.4
  • Plant shutdown and decommissioning 4
    • Sarcophagus replacement 4.1
  • General Directors 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8
    • News media 8.1


The V.I. Lenin Nuclear Power Station (Russian: Чернобыльская АЭС им. В.И.Ленина) as it was known during the Soviet times, consisted of four reactors of type RBMK-1000, each capable of producing 1,000 megawatts (MW) of electric power (3.2 GW of thermal power), and the four together produced about 10% of Ukraine's electricity at the time of the accident.[2]

The Chernobyl station is 18 km (11 mi) northwest of the city of Chernobyl, 16 km (9.9 mi) from the border of Ukraine and Belarus and about 100 km (62 mi) north of Kiev. Construction of the plant and the nearby city of Pripyat, Ukraine to house workers and their families began in 1970, with Reactor No. 1 commissioned in 1977. It was the third nuclear power station in the Soviet Union of the RBMK-type (after Leningrad and Kursk), and the first ever nuclear power plant on Ukrainian soil.

The completion of the first reactor in 1977 was followed by Reactor No. 2 (1978), No. 3 (1981), and No. 4 (1983). Two more reactors, Nos. 5 and 6, capable of producing 1,000 MW each, were under construction at the time of the accident. Reactor No. 5 was about 70% complete at the time of the accident and was scheduled to start operating in November 7, 1986. However, the works were halted on January 1, 1988 leaving most of the machinery behind. Furthermore a 6th reactor was planned in a new block of buildings scheduled to be completed in 1994.

Reactor Nos. 3 and 4 were second generation units, whereas Nos. 1 and 2 were first-generation units (like those in operation at Kursk Nuclear Power Plant). Second-generation RBMK designs were fitted with a more secure accident localization system, as can be seen in pictures. It is fortunate that the accident happened in a second-generation unit; if it had happened in a first-generation unit, it could have been even more devastating. Today, many countries that were in the Soviet-led Eastern Bloc have been forced to shutdown such first-generation units as a condition to become members of the European Union, as they pose a threat to the environment.[3]

Electrical systems

The power plant is connected to the 330 kV and 750 kV electrical grid. The block has two electrical generators connected to the 750 kV grid by a single generator transformer. The generators are connected to their common transformer by two switches in series. Between them, the unit transformers are connected to supply power to the power plant's own systems; each generator can therefore be connected to the unit transformer to power the plant, or to the unit transformer and the generator transformer to also feed power to the grid.[4]

The 330 kV line is normally not used, and serves as an external power supply, connected by a station transformer to the power plant's electrical systems. The plant can be powered by its own generators, or get power from the 750 kV grid through the generator transformer, or from the 330 kV grid via the station transformer, or from the other power plant block via two reserve busbars. In case of total external power loss, the essential systems can be powered by diesel generators. Each unit transformer is connected to two 6 kV main power boards, A and B (e.g. 7A, 7B, 8A, 8B for generators 7 and 8), powering principal non-essential drivers and connected to transformers for the 4 kV main power and the 4 kV reserve busbar.[4]

The 7A, 7B, and 8B boards are also connected to the three essential power lines (namely for the coolant pumps), each also having its own diesel generator. In case of a coolant circuit failure with simultaneous loss of external power, the essential power can be supplied by the spinning down turbogenerators for about 45–50 seconds, during which time the diesel generators should start up. The generators are started automatically within 15 seconds at loss of off-site power.[4]

Turbo generators

The electrical energy is generated by a pair of 500 MW hydrogen-cooled turbo generators. These are located in the 600 m (1,969 ft)-long machine hall, adjacent to the reactor building. The turbines—the venerable five-cylinder K-500-65/3000—are supplied by the Kharkiv turbine plant; the electrical generators are the TBB-500. The turbine and the generator rotors are mounted on the same shaft; the combined weight of the rotors is almost 200 t (220 short tons) and their nominal rotational speed is 3000 rpm.[5]

The turbo generator is 39 m (128 ft) long and its total weight is 1,200 t (1,300 short tons). The coolant flow for each turbine is 82,880 t/h. The generator produces 20 kV 50 Hz AC power. The generator's stator is cooled by water while its rotor is cooled by hydrogen. The hydrogen for the generators is manufactured on-site by electrolysis.[5] The design and reliability of the turbines earned them the State Prize of Ukraine for 1979.

The Kharkiv turbine plant (now Turboatom) later developed a new version of the turbine, K-500-65/3000-2, in an attempt to reduce use of valuable metal. The Chernobyl plant was equipped with both types of turbines; Block 4 had the newer ones. The newer turbines, however, turned out to be more sensitive to their operating parameters, and their bearings had frequent problems with vibrations.[6]

Reactor fleet

Four RMBK reactors were at Chernobyl, NPP. Chernobyl-3 performed a total power loss test like the kind that caused the accident at #4. Reactors #1-3 continued to operate until their shutdown in the 1990s. #5-#6 were cancelled while partially complete.


1982 Reactor No. 1

On September 9, 1982, a partial core meltdown occurred in Reactor No. 1 at the Chernobyl plant. The extent of the accident was not made public until several years later. The reactor was repaired and put back into operation within months.[7]

1986 Disaster Reactor No. 4

Reactor No. 4 with its enclosing sarcophagus.

On Saturday, April 26, 1986, a disaster occurred at Reactor No. 4, which has been widely regarded as the worst accident in the history of nuclear power in the world. As a result, Reactor No. 4 was completely destroyed and is being enclosed in a concrete and lead sarcophagus to prevent further escape of radioactivity. Large areas of Europe were affected by the accident. The radioactive cloud spread as far away as Norway.

1991 fire Reactor No. 2

The Chernobyl Nuclear Plant utilized one large, open turbine hall for all four reactors without any separating walls. Each reactor had two turbines. On October 11, 1991, a fire broke out in the turbine hall of Reactor No. 2.[8] The fire began in Reactor No. 2's Turbine 4 (ТГ-4 in Russian) while the turbine was being idled for repairs. A faulty switch caused a surge of current to the turbine, igniting insulating material on some electrical wiring.[9] This subsequently led to hydrogen, used as a turbine coolant, being leaked into the turbine hall "which apparently created the conditions for fire to start in the roof and for one of the trusses supporting the roof to collapse." [10] The adjacent reactor hall and reactor were unaffected.

Ukraine's 1991 independence from the Soviet Union generated further discussion on the Chernobyl topic, because the Rada, Ukraine's new parliament, was composed largely of young reformers. Discussions about the future of nuclear energy in Ukraine helped move the government toward the political decision to cancel the operation of Reactor No. 2.

2013 collapse

On February 13, 2013, a 600-square-metre (6,500-square-foot) portion of the roof and wall adjacent to the covered part of the turbine hall collapsed into the entombed area of the turbine hall. The collapse did not affect any other part of the Object Shelter or the New Safe Confinement. No variances in radiation levels as a result of the incident were detected.[11] The roof which collapsed was built after the Chernobyl disaster.[12]

Plant shutdown and decommissioning

After the explosion at Reactor No. 4, the remaining three reactors at the power plant continued to operate. In 1991, Reactor No. 2 suffered a major fire, and was subsequently shut down.[13] In November 1996, Reactor No. 1 was shut down, followed by Reactor No. 3 in 2000. This would normally require several years, but the complication of Reactor No. 4's explosion and current state has already extended the time required, and will continue to do so for many years more. The first stage of decommissioning is the removal of the highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel, which is placed in deep water cooling ponds. However, storage facilities for this are not suitable for long term containment, and those on site do not have the capacity for all the spent fuel from reactors 1, 2 and 3. A second facility is planned for construction that will use dry storage technology suitable for long term storage and have the required capacity.[14] The schedule for plant decommissioning is intimately wrapped with the dismantling of Reactor No. 4 and the decontamination of its environs. The Chernobyl New Safe Confinement will have equipment which will make decommissioning relatively incidental to, yet an integral part of, the cleanup of the exploded reactor. The Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant had no reactors left to run the turbines so the generators could not run.

Removal of uncontaminated equipment has begun at Reactor No. 1 and this work could be complete by 2020–2022.[15]

The remains of Reactor No. 4 will remain radioactive for 1000 years. The isotope responsible for the majority of the external gamma radiation dose at the site is caesium-137, which has a half-life of about 30 years. Thus the radiation exposure from that radionuclide has almost declined to half of the original value right after the explosion. It is likely that no further decontamination work will take place until the gamma ray dosage at the site has returned to background levels in about 300 years. However, most of the alpha emitters are longer lived, and the soil and many surfaces in and around the plant are likely to remain contaminated with (uranium) fuel and transuranic metals such as plutonium and americium, which have much longer half-lives. It is planned that the reactor buildings will be disassembled as soon as it is safe to do so in terms of exposure to radiation; there are hopes that future technology will facilitate cleanup of those materials without having to await the long time for the radiation to fall to an acceptable level.

Sarcophagus replacement

New Safe Confinement construction - the picture shows that the first half of the new shell is nearing completion; another shell of that same size will be constructed behind it, before together they are rolled up to cover the west end of the plant, including the old sarcophagus and reactor 3 and 4.

Originally announced in June 2003, a new steel containment structure named the New Safe Confinement (NSC) would be built to replace the aging and hastily-built sarcophagus that currently protects Reactor No. 4. Though the project's development has been delayed several times, construction officially began in September 2010. The New Safe Confinement is financed by an international fund managed by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), is being designed and built by the French-led consortium Novarka, which includes the companies Bouygues and Vinci. Novarka is building a giant arch-shaped structure out of steel, 190 m (623 ft) wide and 200 m (656 ft) long to cover the old crumbling concrete dome that is currently in use.

This steel casing project is expected to cost $1.4 billion (£700 million, €1 billion), and expected to be completed by the end of 2017.[16] A separate deal has been made with the American firm Holtec to build a storage facility within the exclusion zone for nuclear waste produced by Chernobyl.[17][18][19]

The shelter replacement required demolition of the recognisable 75 meter tall exhaust chimney which was used for both Reactors No. 3 and 4. A shorter stack has been constructed adjacent to it that will be used to ventilate the new shelter.

General Directors

See also


  1. ^ Chernobyl nuclear power plant site to be cleared by 2065, Kyiv Post (January 3, 2010)
  2. ^ – All four of the reactors at the Chernobyl nuclear power station were of the RBMK-type
  3. ^
  4. ^ a b c British Nuclear Energy Society (1987). Chernobyl: a technical appraisal: proceedings of the seminar organized by the British Nuclear Energy Society held in London on 3 October 1986. London: Thomas Telford Ltd.  
  5. ^ a b "Energoatom Concern OJSC› Smolensk NPP › About the Plant › Generation" (in Русский). April 30, 2008. Retrieved March 22, 2010. 
  6. ^ "Последняя командировка - Архив - Forum on". Retrieved March 22, 2010. 
  7. ^ See:
    • In 2001, the Security Services of Ukraine (SSU) published a report on the 1986 nuclear accident in Chernobyl, which included documents concerning the partial meltdown of the Chernobyl nuclear power reactor number 1 on September 9, 1982 (9 вересня 1982). The report consisted largely of documents from the files of Soviet KGB archives. The report was titled: "З архівів ВУЧК-ГПУ-НКВД-КГБ" No. 1 (16) 2001 Чорнобильська трагедія в документах та матеріалах (From the archives of the VUChK-GPU-NKVD-KGB. No. 1 (16) 2001 The Chernobyl tragedy in documents and materials). On December 10, 2005, the report was posted on the SSU's Web site. See especially documents 9-14.
    • A review of that report was written by Voldymyr Tykhyy, which was published in: Many-sided Approach to the Realities of the Chernobyl NPP Accident: Summing-up of the Consequences of the Accident Twenty Years After (II), T. Imanaka, ed. (Kyoto, Japan: Kyoto University Research Reactor Institute, May 2008), pp. 252-263; see especially page 255.
  8. ^ Fire Reported in Generator Area At the Chernobyl Nuclear Plant
  9. ^ Roof fire at Chernobyl intensifies Ukrainian calls to close nuclear plant Baltimore Sun (October 13, 1991)
  10. ^ Soviets Assure Safety at A-Plant Damaged by Fire New York Times (October 13, 1991)
  11. ^ "Chernobyl radiation unaffected after heavy snow causes partial roof collapse, Ukrainian officials say". New York Daily press. Associated Press. February 13, 2013. Retrieved February 15, 2013. 
  12. ^ "Chernobyl roof collapses under snow". New Zealand Herald. AFP. February 14, 2013. Retrieved February 15, 2013. 
  13. ^ "Backgrounder on Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant Accident". US Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Retrieved January 16, 2011. 
  14. ^ Dry storage progress at Chernobyl.
  15. ^ Decommissioning at Chernobyl.
  16. ^ "NOVARKA and Chernobyl Project Management Unit confirm cost and time schedule for Chernobyl New Safe Confinement". European Bank. April 8, 2011. Retrieved April 22, 2012. 
  17. ^, Facts & Figures
  18. ^ Holtec International Press Release (December 31, 2007)
  19. ^ "New licence for Chernobyl used fuel facility". World Nuclear News. March 28, 2013. Retrieved April 2, 2013. 

External links

  • Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant – official website (Ukrainian) English icon on home page
  • Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant at Google Maps
  • Steel Sarcophagus Announcement.
  • (Russian)» Zone – virtual walk with comments« by Nataliya Monastirnaya

News media

  • ЧАЕС — нагадування чи спогади? /Кореспондент/
  • Чорнобиль — Захід: умов більше, допомоги менше
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