Chernobyl Reactor Shell In "Catastrophic Condition"
"Sarcophagus" Growing Weaker, Official Says
KIEV, Ukraine (AP) - The shell covering Chernobyl's ruined nuclear reactor deteriorated over 1997, increasing the chances it will collapse and release radioactive dust, the plant's deputy director said.
Studies last year showed that the roof of the concrete-and-steel shelter is weakening and the beams holding it up are in ``catastrophic condition,'' Valentin Kupny told the Interfax news agency.
Kupny is responsible for the so-called ``sarcophagus'' that was hastily built over Chernobyl's Reactor No. 4 after an explosion and fire in April 1986, history's worst nuclear accident.
Experts long have feared that parts of the ramshackle shelter could crash onto the ruins of the reactor, sending a cloud of radioactive dust into the atmosphere.
About 37 tons of the dust remain in the structure, Kupny said Tuesday.
As part of an effort to close Chernobyl by 2000, Ukraine and Western nations began raising money last year for a project to make the sarcophagus safer. About $400 million has been pledged out of $760 million needed.
Chernobyl's third reactor, the only one still functioning, has been shut for repairs since last summer.

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