As the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl accident approaches, the international community has pledged a further €550 million ($786 million) to ensure the plant site in Ukraine is made stable and environmentally safe.
|The damaged unit 4 at the Chernobyl plant (Image: ChNPP)
The new pledges were made at a pledging conference in Kiev today. During the meeting, 28 countries made new contributions to the Chernobyl funds, while several other countries announced that they are still considering making pledges.
The pledges will be used primarily to complete the New Safe Confinement (NSC), a vast structure currently being constructed over the wrecked unit 4 of the Chernobyl plant. The NSC building will allow the dismantling and cleanup of the damaged reactor in a controlled environment.
The NSC is an arch structure that will be erected adjacent to the damaged reactor building (the 'sarcophagus') and then slid into position to environmentally isolate the unit while future cleanup operations continue. The structure is scheduled to be moved over the sarcophagus and confine the remains of the plant from the outside world for about 100 years. It is expected to be completed in 2015.
The pledges will also help to complete the construction of a storage facility on the site for the used fuel from the three other Chernobyl units, which continued operating after the 1986 accident. The facility will provide dry storage for more than 20,000 used fuel assemblies on completion in 2014-5.
The environmental restoration work at Chernobyl is funded by 29 donor countries to the Chernobyl Shelter Fund, set up in 1997, which is administered by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).
Among the pledges made was €120 million ($172 million) from the EBRD; €110 million ($157 million) from the European Commission (EC); and £28.5 million ($46 million) from the UK.
EBRD president Thomas Mirow commented, "This is an encouraging result and we strongly welcome the donors' strong commitment to work together with Ukraine to implement lasting solutions in Chernobyl." He added, "This is a significant achievement which represents a major step forward, but also a great responsibility for the consortium to deliver in time and within budget and make the site safe for generations to come."
However, a further €740 million ($1.06 billion) is still needed from the international community in order to complete the major projects on the site by 2015, according to the EC.
Prior to the conference, EC president José Manuel Barroso said, "Nuclear safety is a global issue that requires a global response. Our pledge, which reflects the European Commission's leading role on nuclear safety, will be key in making the Chernobyl site safe again." He added, "We hope that our key partners will also step up their contributions in order to complete the works of the shelter by 2015."
The EC has so far committed some €470 million ($670 million) to Chernobyl-related projects, mainly for nuclear safety, but also on programs to help the local population and provide affected families with access to quality healthcare.
Following the Chernobyl pledging conference, Barroso said: "We cannot go back in time and make undone what happened. We cannot eliminate the suffering of the past. But we can show responsibility for the future. I believe that today the international community has risen to this challenge."
The EC Commissioner for Development, Andris Piebalgs, said, "The recent accident at Fukushima in Japan shows that nuclear safety remains a critical issue." He added, "Today's pledge is a big step forward in helping to meet the funding shortfall, and sends a clear signal that the commission is committed to doing all it can to ensure that Chernobyl is made safe, both for the local people and the environment."
Researched and written
by World Nuclear News