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Should the city of Pripyat be saved?:

Ukraine head criticises slow progress on Chernobyl cover

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko criticised his government on Tuesday for slow progress on building a new shelter to encase the wrecked fourth reactor of the Chernobyl power plant, site of the world's worst nuclear accident.

Ukraine signed a deal in September 2007 with the French-led Novarka consortium to erect an arch-shaped shelter at the plant where a fire, followed by an explosion, occurred on April 26, 1986, sending radiation billowing over parts of central Europe.

This project was due to be completed over four to five years at a cost of $1.39 billion. A second deal with U.S.-based Holtec International foresees building a facility to house spent nuclear fuel from reactors. Turning on his political rival Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, Yushchenko told a national security meeting: "We have had three international conferences, more than $900 million in resources have been brought together ... why is there an empty building site today?".

The European Bank of Reconstruction and Development, which is overseeing financing, agreed earlier this year to make a grant of 135 million euros for partial financing of the two projects. Donors, mostly foreign governments, have so far contributed 739 million euros for the two projects overall. A "sarcophagus", hastily erected by workers and troops over the reactor in the weeks and months following the 1986 disaster, is now losing its effectiveness and could leak radiation. The new casing will take the form of an arch 105 metres (345 feet) high, 150 metres long and 260 metres across. It will be built onsite and then slid over the fourth reactor.

The second facility is to house more than 20,000 spent fuel assemblies used by the other three reactors during the plant's 23 years in operation before it was shut down in 2000. Estimates of the number of deaths linked to the Chernobyl accident vary widely. The World Health Organisation puts the number at 9,000, while the environmental group Greenpeace predicts an eventual death toll of 93,000. Some 200,000 residents were evacuated from Ukraine alone, though the accident hit neighbouring Belarus especially hard. (Reporting by Yuri Kulikov; writing by Richard Balmforth; editing by Robin Pomeroy)

Reflective essay, Tue, 07/26/2011 - 17:30.   |  

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