Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma said on 22 November that the $37 million pledged at the Chernobyl G7 donor conference in New York was enough, combined with the $350 million already committed, for work to begin on upgrading safety at the Chernobyl Sarcophagus. An estimated total of $760 million is needed. Kuchma said that work will begin “in no less than two years”.
The conference was attended by 50 states and co-chaired by US Vice-President Albert Gore and Kuchma.
“This conference is ten years late. But better late than never,” Kuchma commented. He said Ukraine spends around 12% of budget revenues on safety measures at the plant, adding that “Kiev is resolute in honouring its pledge that it will shut down the plant by the year 2000, but it needs financial assistance to do that.” Despite the pledges, Ukrainian Environment and Nuclear Safety Minister Yuri Kostenko continues to warn that the agreed deadline for closing of Chernobyl may not be met.
Ministry experts say that the third unit could operate until 2000. However, if the terms of the programme to shut down the station by 2000 are not met, a decision may still be made to upgrade the reactor to operate for another 10-15 years, Kostenko adds.
The first reactor was shut down in November 1996 in line with the agreement reached with the G-7; repairs are currently under way on the second unit following the fire that damaged the turbo-generator in 1991.
Kostenko puts the sum needed to close down all Chernobyl reactors at $2-2.5 billion.
For more information on the Sarcophagus Pledging Conference, see Update on page 8.