No cause for alarm after roof caves in at Chernobyl

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Ukrainian officials have sought to reassure the public that radiation levels at Chernobyl have not been affected by a partial roof collapse at the devastated nuclear power plant.

A 6,500 square-foot section of the roof over the turbine hall at the fourth power block collapsed on Tuesday, plant spokeswoman Maya Rudenko said. The collapse was caused by heavy snow.

Ms Rudenko said the affected area is about 160ft from the “sarcophagus,” a shelter built shortly after the 1986 disaster to contain radiation. Ms Rudenko said the radiation levels were normal and there was no danger to the public. “Everybody should be calm,” she said. “Yes, it is unpleasant, but there is no danger.”

The reactor exploded on 26 April, 1986, sending radioactive fallout over much of Europe and forcing the evacuation of 115,000 people locally. A 19-mile exclusion zone remains in place.

A new giant arch-shaped confinement chamber is being constructed over the old sarcophagus. Its construction was not affected by the accident, said Anton Usov, spokesman for the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, which runs the £1.2 billion project.

“The old shelter was not affected, the new safe confinement was not affected either,” Mr Usov said.

Vinci and Bouygues, two French construction companies working on the new confinement chamber, said they had evacuated about 80 workers as a precaution.

However, Vladimir Chuprov, at Greenpeace Russia, said: “Even if the radiation level has not changed, it’s still an alarming signal. If the panels in the turbine hall have collapsed, then in principle there is no guarantee that the sarcophagus will not start falling apart in the near future.”