Donors double offer to seal up Chernobyl

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The Independent Online

Construction of a new concrete "sarcophagus" over the nuclear reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the Ukraine is likely to go ahead after donor countries promised yesterday to double their contributions. The project is expected to cost $768m (£490m).

Construction of a new concrete "sarcophagus" over the nuclear reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the Ukraine is likely to go ahead after donor countries promised yesterday to double their contributions. The project is expected to cost $768m (£490m).

Representatives of 37 countries attending a conference in Berlin announced that an additional $320m had been pledged on top of $393m already promised. Most of the money was offered by European Union and G7 countries.

Joschka Fischer, the German Foreign Minister, said this had exceeded expectations and that it was now possible to go ahead with the project.

After the Chernobyl explosion in 1986 - the worst nuclear accident in history - reactor number three was covered with a concrete mantle. Inside the "sarcophagus" are 180 tons of radioactive fuel and debris.

The new project is part of a broader scheme to decommission Chernobyl, which is still producing electric power from its remaining reactors, and render it safe. Ukraine recently promised during a visit by President Clinton to close down the plant on 15 December 2000.

Ukraine will also need to complete two new reactors elsewhere and construct waste storage sites. The total cost may be as high as $2bn. Ukraine still gets 8 per cent of its electricity from Chernobyl and half of its electric power supply comes from nuclear power stations.

Meanwhile, the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, and his Chinese counterpart, Jiang Zemin, yesterday discussed their joint opposition to the US plan to build a nuclear defence system in breach of the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty.

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