Fuel being unloaded from Chernobyl reactors

Chernobyl experts have begun unloading radioactive fuel from one of the closed reactors at the nuclear power plant in Ukraine.

Reactor No 3. - the last to continue operating - was closed for good in 2000, but it was never emptied of fuel.

The remaining fuel in reactor No. 3 and reactor No. 1 made it impossible to start construction of a new shelter over the fourth reactor, destroyed in the 1986 explosion and fire that spewed radiation over much of northern Europe.

In an effort to prevent further radiation release, engineers hastily erected a concrete-and-steel shelter over the damaged reactor, but parts of it are crumbling, making it necessary for a new shelter.

Originally, officials had planned to unload the remaining fuel into a new storage depot, but plans for its construction were suspended until 2010.

The plant's spokesman, speaking on customary condition of anonymity, said the fuel will instead be unloaded into a Soviet-era used fuel depot. Unloading the fuel, which began Monday, is necessary to make the plant entirely inoperative, Chernobyl employees said.

Reactors - even those that are closed - are considered potentially dangerous as long as fuel remains inside.

The plant spokesman said that the disposal work meets all international safety requirements, the AP reports.


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