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The science of nuclear energy
The science of nuclear energy

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3.1.4 Clean-up at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl

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Figure 3

It is 36 years since the events at Three Mile Island. The reactor that underwent meltdown was permanently shut down.

Over the years much of the radioactive waste has been removed although the site remains monitored. The other reactor was also closed temporarily but began to operate again in 1985. It has a licence to operate until 2034 when it is planned that the entire site will be decommissioned.

After the disaster at Chernobyl the remains of the reactor will remain radioactive for hundreds of years. Shortly after the meltdown, it was entombed in a concrete and steel structure called a sarcophagus. This was an attempt to shield the surrounding environment from the worst of the radiation.

The other reactors at Chernobyl functioned for some years after but are now all shut down. At the end of the week, you’ll come back to Chernobyl and examine what conditions are like there today.

In the next sections, you will find out the sequence of events that led to the crisis in the Fukushima nuclear power plant.