CHERNOBYL NUCLEAR POWER STATION, Ukraine (AP) -- Workers have raised the first section of a colossal arch-shaped structure that eventually will cover the exploded nuclear reactor at the Chernobyl power station.
Project officials on Tuesday hailed the raising as a significant step in a complex effort to clean up the consequences of the 1986 explosion, the world's worst nuclear accident. Upon completion, the shelter will be moved on tracks over the building containing the destroyed reactor, allowing work to begin on dismantling the reactor and disposing of radioactive waste.
Suma Chakrabati, president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, which is leading the project, called Tuesday "a very significant milestone, which is a tribute to the ongoing commitment of the international donor community, and an important step towards overcoming the legacy of the accident."
The shelter, shaped like a gargantuan Quonset hut, will be 257 meters by 150 meters (843 feet by 492 feet) when completed and at its apex will be higher than the Statue of Liberty.
The April 26, 1986, accident in the then-Soviet republic of Ukraine sent a cloud of radioactive fallout over much of Europe and forced the evacuation of about 115,000 people from the plant's vicinity. A 30-kilometer (19-mile) area directly around the plant remains largely off-limits and the town of Pripyat, where the plant's workers once lived, today is a ghostly ruin of deteriorating apartment towers. [17 photos total]

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A toy lies in the window frame of a kindergarten in the deserted town of in Pripyat, Ukraine, Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2012, some 3 kilometers (1.86 miles) from the Chernobyl nuclear plant. (AP / Efrem Lukatsky) #
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A damaged bench near an abandoned apartment building in the deserted city of Pripyat, which was built to house the workers of the Chernobyl nuclear power station some 3 kilometers (1.86 miles) from the plant, Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2012. Pripyat, the city of 47,000 had already been evacuated after the April 26, 1986, explosion of Reactor No. 4. (AP / Efrem Lukatsky) #
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A playground in the deserted town of Pripyat, Ukraine, some 3 kilometers (1.86 miles) from the Chernobyl nuclear plant Ukraine, Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2012. (AP / Efrem Lukatsky) #
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A view of empty houses in the deserted town of Pripyat near the closed Chernobyl nuclear power plant Ukraine Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2012. (AP / Efrem Lukatsky) #
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An abandoned kindergarten in the deserted city of Pripyat, which was built to house the workers of the Chernobyl nuclear power station some 3 kilometers (1.86 miles) from the plant, Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2012. (AP / Efrem Lukatsky) #
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An abandoned kindergarten in the deserted city of Pripyat, which was built to house the workers of the Chernobyl nuclear power station some 3 kilometers (1.86 miles) from the plant, Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2012. (AP / Efrem Lukatsky) #
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A view of empty houses in the deserted town of Pripyat near the closed Chernobyl nuclear power plant Ukraine Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2012. (AP / Efrem Lukatsky) #
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A view of an underpass in the deserted town of Pripyat near the closed Chernobyl nuclear power plant Ukraine Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2012. (AP / Efrem Lukatsky) #
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A view of empty houses in the town of Pripyat near the closed Chernobyl nuclear power plant Ukraine Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2012. (AP / Efrem Lukatsky) #
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The damaged reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Chernobyl, Ukraine Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2012, as it disappears into the low cloud cover. (AP / Efrem Lukatsky) #
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The damaged reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Chernobyl, Ukraine Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2012. (AP / Efrem Lukatsky) #
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Construction workers assist in the assembly of a gigantic steel-arch to cover the remnants of the exploded reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Chernobyl, Ukraine, Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2012. The new safe confinement, a structure that is being built over reactor 4, left, damaged in 1986 as a result of the world's worst nuclear accident, will cover a hastily built sarcophagus, which was erected shortly after the explosion. (AP / Efrem Lukatsky) #
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Construction workers assist in the assembly of a gigantic steel-arch to cover the remnants of the exploded reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Chernobyl, Ukraine, Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2012. (AP / Efrem Lukatsky) #
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Construction workers assist in the assembly of a gigantic steel-arch to cover the remnants of the exploded reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Chernobyl, Ukraine, Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2012. (AP / Efrem Lukatsky) #
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Construction workers assist in the assembly of a gigantic steel-arch to cover the remnants of the exploded reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Chernobyl, Ukraine, Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2012. (AP / Efrem Lukatsky) #
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Construction workers assist in the assembly of a gigantic steel-arch to cover the remnants of the exploded reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Chernobyl, Ukraine, Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2012. (AP / Efrem Lukatsky) #
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Construction workers assist in the assembly of a gigantic steel-arch to cover the remnants of the exploded reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Chernobyl, Ukraine, Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2012. (AP / Efrem Lukatsky) #

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