KIEV, April 24 â€“ Ukraine will probably begin within the next three months construction of the $1 billion state-of-the-art cover over the damaged reactor at Chornobyl nuclear power plant, President Viktor Yushchenko said Monday.
The move would end a six-year international fund raising effort and selection of design to make sure the cover is able to withstand pressures protecting the environment for the next 100 years.
â€śI believe within the next several months the project on the shelter construction will be opened,â€ť Yushchenko said after meeting ambassadors from the worldâ€™s richest nations and Russia.
The donor nations, including the U.S., Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan, joined by Russia, have pledged to provide a total of about $1 billion for the cover at three separate international conferences.
The money, raised by the donors, is channeled to a special fund, known as the Shelter Implementation Project, which is managed by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.
The cover is supposed to be built over the existing one that had been hastily erected to cover the Chornobyl reactor shortly after its explosion on April 26, 1986.
The need for the new cover becomes a pressing matter as local scientists have suggested the lifespan of the original cover may be nearing its end. Should the cover become unstable and collapse, it would have a devastating impact on Europeâ€™s environment, the scientists have warned.
Under pressure from world leaders, Ukraine shut down Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant in December 2000.
However, the financing delays over the past five years and other problems, including delays in selection of the final design of the shelter, postponed the construction indefinitely.
â€śItâ€™s worth to mention that further delays of joint efforts may cost the entire continent too dearly,â€ť Yushchenko said
Yushchenko addressed an international meeting in Kiev on Monday focusing on turning Chornobyl nuclear power plant into an environmentally clean area.
Meanwhile, fund raising efforts will probably not stop there as Ukraine has called on the donors to seek ways to rehabilitate the areas around the Chornobyl and to minimize its impact on healthcare.
â€śI call for the new international donor conference on Chornobyl problems that would outline the strategy of joint actions to overcome the catastrophe,â€ť Yushchenko said. â€śI call on the Council of Europe and the United Nations to support this initiative.â€ť
The plan for the new fund raising campaign was announced days after the government had estimated the Chornobyl catastrophe would probably cost Ukraine a total of $170 billion between 1986 and 2015.
Over the past 20 years, Ukraine directly spent almost $15 billion, mostly for the cleanup operation and for the relocation of hundreds of thousands of people from the 30-km exclusion zone, according to the government.
â€śThe global scale of the Chornobyl tragedy doesnâ€™t recognize national borders,â€ť Yushchenko said. â€śIt convinces us that all opportunities of international cooperation must be used to solve a great number of problems that we face and that will undoubtedly face in the future.â€ť (tl/ez)