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$850 million void in Chernobyl sarcophagus project: official

Japan right-winger crashes through nuclear plant gates
Tokyo (AFP) March 31, 2011 - A man driving what appeared to be a right-wing propaganda loudspeaker truck on Thursday crashed his vehicle through the gates of a Japanese nuclear plant and was arrested by police, officials said. The man first drove to Japan's disaster-struck Fukushima Daiichi (No. 1) plant, was turned back, and then rammed the vehicle through the gates of its sister plant, Fukushima Daini (No. 2), in the early afternoon. The driver fled after spending about 10 minutes inside the Daini plant, said a spokesman for the agency, Yuichi Sato.

Police tracked him down and detained him about two hours later, Sato told AFP. "His identity, motive and affiliation are not immediately clear," he said. Sato said the truck resembled those equipped with loudspeakers and often used by right-wing nationalist groups for political demonstrations. "We can't condone such an intrusion from the viewpoint of protection of nuclear material," Hidehiko Nishiyama, deputy director of the nuclear safety agency, told Japanese media. "We must reinforce the security."

Both plants, run by Tokyo Electric Power Co., were hit by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. The plants are about 12 kilometres (eight miles) apart. The giant wave knocked out Daiichi's cooling systems and workers have been struggling there since to keep fuel rods from overheating and melting down at four of its six reactors. At Daini, the four reactors have been cooled and stabilised after the tremor led them to shut down automatically, officials say.
by Staff Writers
Chernobyl, Ukraine (AFP) March 31, 2011
The project to build a new sarcophagus over the damaged Chernobyl nuclear reactor lacks some 600 million euros of the 1.5 billion needed, a Ukrainian official said Thursday.

"The total works are currently estimated to cost 1.54 billion euros, including 990 million for the sarcophagus itself," Volodymyr Holosha, the official in charge of the evacuated exclusion zone around the plant, told a group of journalists on a tour to the area.

Some 940 million euros had already been collected by the Chernobyl Shelter Fund, he said. "So we are missing approximately another 600 million euros ($850 million)."

Expenses in addition to the actual sarcophagus, hurriedly built to prevent radioactivity escaping after the April 1986 disaster, include decontamination of the site, and installing nuclear security systems, he said.

About 600 million euros has already been spent on works in the area.

The current sarcophagus "emits a little bit of nuclear pollution, but the quanitity is insignificant," Holosha said, adding that it could serve another 15 years after having gone through a refurbishment.

"The environmental situation in the zone of exclusion is stable and generates no worries," Holosha added.

The nuclear power station, site of the world's worst nuclear disaster, lies about 100 kilometres (60 miles) north of the capital Kiev. The fallout from its exploded forth reactor impacted most of Europe, especially Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia.

The concrete sarcophagus capping the reactor has developed cracks over the past 25 years and is not considered failsafe.

A consortium made up of French construction companies Bouygues and Vinci won a tender in 2007 to build a new sarcophagus, financed by an international foundation.

The 108-metre-high arched structure, weighing 20,000 tonnes, will be assembled close to the reactor and then slid on rails over the existing sarcophagus.

Concern over the safety of nuclear power plants has risen with the disaster at Fukushima, northeastern Japan, the worst since Chernobyl, where an earthquake followed by a tsunami led to releases of radiation way above safety limits.

Workers are battling to stabilise reactors, into which water has been poured to submerge and cool fuel rods that are assumed to have partially melted down.

They are also struggling to safely dispose of thousands of tons of highly contaminated run-off water.

Japan has considered a range of high-tech options -- including covering the explosion-charred reactor buildings with fabric.

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Pressure on Japan to widen nuclear evacuation zone
Sendai, Japan (AFP) March 31, 2011
Japan said Thursday there were no immediate plans to widen the exclusion zone around its stricken nuclear plant, hours after the UN atomic watchdog agency voiced its concern over the issue. In Washington, the Pentagon ordered a Marine emergency nuclear response unit to deploy to Japan as a precautionary move and to stand ready to assist in Japan's response to the crisis at the tsunami-hit Fu ... read more

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