Nuclear bunker looks like a... nuclear bunker, say architects

Elizabeth Hopkirk

Chernobyl's stricken reactor will be sealed inside a giant shell

Damaged Chernobyl reactor to be re-sealed inside giant shell

Ukraine has secured $785 million in pledges from world governments towards the construction of a vast steel shell to seal the Chernobyl nuclear reactor.

The work, by contractor Novarka, has become necessary because the concrete “sarcophagus” built around the stricken reactor in 1986 has developed serious cracks.

The 20,000-tonne shed will be 100m tall – big enough to contain St Paul’s Cathedral – and will take five years to construct. The two halves will be wheeled into place because it is too dangerous to work on site.

While the project is clearly a feat of engineering, architects couldn’t help but comment that it lacked a certain architectural flair.

Bill Gething, sustainability expert at Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, said it was clearly the work of an engineer, before adding conciliatorily that an architect would have designed something so complicated it would have leaked.

“Let’s hope this one works or we will end up with a set of Russian dolls,” he said.

“Maybe they could paint it sky blue to make it disappear. But why should it be beautiful? No one is going to look at it because everyone’s got to keep away. It’s very sensible of them not to waste money on architects’ fees.”

Iain Macdonald, director at nuclear specialist YRM, said: “Novarka’s monolithic form is derived from its construction and operational logics – what’s missing is the human scale, innovative shaping and symbolism that an architect’s involvement would contribute.  Wallpaper won’t be enough.”


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