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Wouldn't it be easier to just pump concrete over the reactor until it's all covered up with a solid concrete instead of hurting so many workers and putting so much effort and costs building a structure over it and cleaning up the area?

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    $\begingroup$ What makes you think workers have been hurt? What makes you think covering it in solid concrete would hurt fewer workers? On what basis do you think covering it in concrete would be cheaper? $\endgroup$ – AndyT Nov 17 '16 at 12:09
  • $\begingroup$ Because you just take one truck of concrete pump and start filling everything with concrete. Workers were harmed having to go around the area to clean the place by hands. $\endgroup$ – Ronen Festinger Nov 17 '16 at 20:49
  • $\begingroup$ Perhaps I wasn't clear enough. What I meant was: Please provide a reference for harmed workers, because my understanding was that the whole point of the sarcophagus was that it was assembled remotely and then slid into place by remote control, meaning no workers had to go close to the most radioactive places. I know no way of placing concrete remotely, hence covering with concrete may have required workers to get closer and hence subject them to more harm. $\endgroup$ – AndyT Nov 18 '16 at 9:00
  • $\begingroup$ Whether or not workers are harmed depends a lot on their equipment, training, and their boss and dosage monitoring officer. There are plenty of nuclear facilities that operate safely. Just because there is radioactivity does not imply workers are being harmed. I can understand that in 1986 when trying to contain the accident that many workers were harmed because of the urgency of their task. However today in 2016 there is no reason to assume that workers are being harmed. $\endgroup$ – willpower2727 Nov 18 '16 at 12:40
  • $\begingroup$ I was talking about the original sarcophagus, not the new one. And I was talking about the clean up done in the past. $\endgroup$ – Ronen Festinger Nov 19 '16 at 4:03
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The likely reason is that simply pouring concrete over it would not have contained it.

The site is smoldering and emits gases of various types. It also has voids and shifts around, various areas collapsing into pockets. If it were covered with concrete, the concrete would develop cracks and radioactive particles would be emitted.

The sarcophagus structure is designed to be flexible and to seal everything in as tightly as possible without cracking, although it does have ventilation, so radioactive gases do escape. The structure also has viewing ports that allow the interior to be monitored.

A large amount of concrete was used in the construction of the sarcophagus.

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  • $\begingroup$ While one pour would not last, repeated pours, say every year should be sufficient to catch all the cracks and settling. And no one is going to trust the groundwater there for ten thousand years anyway. A mountain of concrete must be orders of magnitude cheaper: they could buy each victim a villa in Monte Carlo with the savings. $\endgroup$ – SMBiggs Apr 22 at 0:49
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The original sarcophagus built around 1986 has some issues and it was estimated in 1988 that it would only last 20-30 years (here we are). Check out this link that explains some of the main issues with the current sarcophagus; namely structural instability. Trying to repair the current sarcophagus is impractical.

The new confinement structure is designed to help shield the site from weather (e.g. rain water drains through the reactor picking up radiocative materials and then leaking into the groundwater). It also allows workers to partially dismantle and clean up what is there, which is a better long term solution. Here is a link about the new confinement structure.

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