MOSCOW--Construction began April 26 to assemble a shelter to contain radioactive materials at the stricken Chernobyl nuclear plant in Ukraine.
The project is expected to take three years to complete.
The shelter is designed to reinforce the outdated concrete sarcophagus that now covers the No. 4 reactor.
According to experts, it will be nearly a century before the site is safe. Dismantling the reactor will take about 10 years, and then about 60 years to remove all the melted nuclear fuel.
Construction work got under way on the 26th anniversary of the disaster at the Chernobyl plant.
"This will be an important first step to heighten safety," said Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych at a ceremony held near the plant.
The shelter will be semi-circle in shape with panels assembled onto a steel frame. It will rise to a height of 105 meters with a width of 257 meters.
After the shelter is assembled next to the reactor, it will be hoisted over the reactor on special rails and fixed in place. The shelter is designed to last for 100 years.
According to officials of Ukraine's Emergencies Ministry, dismantling of the reactor will begin five years after the completion of the shelter.
Construction costs for the shelter are estimated to be 1.5 billion euros (162 billion yen, or $2 billion), about double initial estimates.
Money for the project will come from a fund established by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.
At one point, there was a fund shortage of about 600 million euros.
But attention again focused on Chernobyl after last year's accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. That led to increased contributions from the European Union, Russia and the United States.
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