European diplomats said the formula adopted in the G7 summit communique was intended by the Americans to dilute control of a multilateral fund.
The first tranche of the assistance to improve the safety standards of East Europe's antiquated and hazardous nuclear industry is estimated at dollars 700m (pounds 370m). The Americans, who would like the lucrative part of the programme to benefit US companies like Westinghouse, have said they prefer to donate bilaterally. The French hope the contracts will go to Framatome, their own nuclear corporation. 'It's an extremely difficult issue to resolve because there is a thinly veiled agenda of commercial competition and greed,' said a European official.
'It's all a question of conquering markets. Except for the Germans. They are really genuinely scared. It's not far from Germany to the Ukraine, whereas the cloud from Chernobyl, let's face it, always stops at the French border.'
The fund is intended to fill the gaps that bilateral assistance does not cover. Officials complained that the aim on the summit agenda was overshadowed by national self-interests. One European official insisted there was a genuine need for the fund to deal with emergencies 'in places where no one wants to go - Kozloduy, Bulgaria, for instance. Nobody wants to go there.' Kozloduy - a complex of Soviet design built in the 1970s and virtually devoid of safety guarantees - is considered the most dangerous nuclear plant in Europe.
The leaders agreed to introduce an army of cooks in controlling the fund: 'The fund would take account of bilteral funding, be administered by a steering body . . . and be co-ordinated with and assisted by the G24 and the EBRD.'