The EBRD has approved two “priority” grants, worth $41 million, to enable work to begin on transforming the Chernobyl Sarcophagus into an ecologically-sound structure. The go-ahead was given at a meeting in London of donor nations contributing to the Chernobyl Shelter Fund, administered by the bank. The funding will be used to set up a project management unit (PMU) to manage reconstruction work and to support Ukrainian nuclear regulators with the Shelter Implementation Plan (SIP). First payments from the shelter fund are expected to be soon.

Last December, the EBRD approved an initial list of companies interested in setting up the project management unit, and the process of choosing a contractor got under way in February. Three consortia are competing for the contract: Bechtel (US) with subcontractors Electricité de France and Battelle (US); Germany’s Trischler und Partner with subcon-tractors Parsons and Science Applications International Corp (US), Grabowsky (Netherlands) and Jean-Marie Lavic (France); and Westinghouse Energy Systems Europe with subcontractors NNC (UK) and Belgatom. Danish consultant Rumboll, which is advising Chernobyl management on the procurement process, will be on the Ukrainian team evaluating the bidders. Tender opening for the early biddable projects (EBP) – mainly options studies, preliminary engineering, and data collection to support initial decisions – was set for 16 March.

Eighteen donor countries and the European Union have pledged $387 million towards the cost of the shelter programme. Approximately $40 million is expected to be spent the first year, requiring procurement of computer hardware and software, management support equipment, civil engineering, operations and monitoring, and emergency systems. The London meeting of the Chernobyl Fund Assembly unanimously elected as its chairman Hans Blix, the former director general of the IAEA.