Leaders pledge aid to complete Chernobyl shelter
Kiev (AFP) April 19, 2011
International leaders pledged hundreds of millions of dollars at a conference in Kiev Tuesday to complete a permanent shelter to secure the ruins of Ukraine's exploded Chernobyl power station.
The conference ahead of the 25th anniversary of the nuclear explosion raised 550 million euros (about $785 million) in pledges, short of the 740 million euros that Ukraine is seeking to complete the project.
It was attended by officials from more than 50 countries and focused on concerns over nuclear safety following the quake damage to Japan's Fukushima power plant, with officials stressing the need to prevent future accidents.
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych hailed the pledges at the conference ahead of the 25th anniversary of the 1986 nuclear explosion on April 26 as "unprecedented."
"This conference has been a real breakthrough," he said, speaking to journalists.
Ukraine has said it needs 740 million euros to complete a giant shelter that will slide on rails over the damaged reactor and its concrete cover, known as the sarcophagus, which was recently shored up after it became unstable.
It also needs the money to fund a project to build safe storage facilities for spent nuclear fuel from the plant, which still contains radioactive magma and fuel rods after it exploded during a planned test by engineers.
"The catastrophe at Chernobyl power station left a deep wound that Ukraine will need to live with for many years ahead," Yanukovych said in his opening speech.
"We thank the international community for not leaving Ukraine alone with this problem."
The president of the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development, which administers the projects, Thomas Mirow, announced it will release between 120 and 180 million euros in the coming months.
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso pledged 110 million euros ($156 million) from the European Union
Praising the summit as a "powerful show of unity by the international community," he said: "Recent events in Fukushima, Japan, have also reminded us of the danger this issue may represent.
"More than ever our responsibility is to join our efforts to limit the consequences of such disasters and to prepare for the future."
Britain said it would give 28.5 million pounds, while Germany pledged 42.4 million euros. Russia said it would give 45 million euros. Ukraine said it would give $104 million up to 2014.
French Prime Minister Francois Fillon, who co-chaired the meeting as the French president of the G8, promised an extra contribution of 47 million euros.
Fillon said he was confident countries which did not make pledges would "be able to make decisions shortly."
The radiation shield projects are administered by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and have earlier collected more than 1.1 billion euros in international funding.
"The catastrophe has affected millions of people, thousands died and tens of thousands continue to suffer," Yanukovych said, while estimates on the total of those affected by the disaster varied.
Nevertheless he stressed that Ukraine would remain dependent on nuclear power, which it uses for around half of its energy, saying that a ban on nuclear energy was simply "empty dreams."
On Tuesday afternoon, leaders attended a summit on civil nuclear energy, focusing on fears over safety after the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan was crippled by the devastating March 11 earthquake and tsunami.
Describing Japan as one of the world's most developed nuclear energy producers, UN chief Ban Ki-moon warned that the disaster at Fukushima could not be compared directly with Chernobyl.
"Chernobyl offers one set of lessons, the disaster in Japan offers another, vastly more complex," he said, adding that he had launched a UN-wide probe into Fukushima's implications.
He called for greater powers for the International Atomic Energy Association and for all countries with nuclear power to sign up to the UN convention.
"By joining forces we can make sure the tragedies of Chernobyl and Fukushima are things of the past, not harbingers of the future."
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