International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) on 27 April agreed to continue to work together, in cooperation with Ukrainian authorities, towards safe and cost-effective solutions to decommission the Chernobyl NPP and manage radioactive waste in the Exclusion Zone.

IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi announced the IAEA-EBRD partnership during a visit to Ukraine one day after the 35th anniversary of the accident at that destroyed the plant.

Following the accident at unit 4 on 26 April 1986, a shelter was built over the remains of the damaged reactor to stabilise it until a long term solution for confinement would be developed and implemented. The plant’s other three reactors, which were undamaged, were shut down, resulting in large amounts of radioactive waste and used fuel that has to be stored.

“The IAEA and the EBRD will closely cooperate to ensure that the funds that donors provide will be put to the best use and the ultimate goals achieved,” Grossi told the assembly of the International Chernobyl Cooperation Account (ICCA), convened by the EBRD. The assembly approved the Comprehensive Plan, Ukraine’s blueprint for full decommissioning and waste management.

The EBRD established the ICCA in 2020 to update, integrate and optimise existing strategies it has supported within a revised comprehensive and integrated plan for the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. “This plan will allow for coherence, optimisation and transparency, and make sure that it is aligned with best international practices,” Grossi said. “The IAEA will work with Ukraine on the implementation of the Comprehensive Plan.” Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky signed an order making Ukraine a contributor to the new fund.

Balthasar Lindauer, EBRD Director, Nuclear Safety Department, said: “Despite an unprecedented level of international cooperation in the transformation of Chernobyl over the past decades, the decommissioning of the nuclear power plant and the management of radioactive waste in the exclusion zone remain the most challenging nuclear safety operations in the world. ICCA will aim to support capabilities that address these challenges. The EBRD stands ready to provide its services as a project and fund manager.”

In a Joint Statement, Grossi and EBRD President Odile Renaud-Basso and commended Ukraine on reaching two milestones: the completion of the New Safe Confinement (NSC) and the start of operation of the Interim Spent Fuel Storage Facility (ISF-2). “These are key milestones, but more needs to be done to reach full decommissioning,” Grossi said. The partnership will draw on the IAEA’s technical mandate, knowledge and experience, as well as its network of international experts, along with the EBRD’s project and fund management experience.

The EBRD supports nuclear decommissioning and remediation in Eastern Europe, Russia and Central Asia. In addition to Chernobyl-related projects, the IAEA has technical advice for the decommissioning of NPPs in Bulgaria, Lithuania and Slovakia and previously cooperated with the EBRD in environmental remediation in Central Asia through the IAEA’s Coordination Group for Uranium Legacy Sites.

Since 1990, the IAEA has provided €17 million ($20.6m) to support Ukraine in environmental remediation, decommissioning and management of radioactive waste as well as to strengthen its nuclear safety framework. In 1990, it launched the International Chernobyl Project to assess the environmental and health status in the areas contaminated by the accident and to evaluate Ukraine’s measures to safeguard people’s health. Further, the IAEA, in cooperation with the governments of Belarus, Russia, Ukraine and other United Nations organisations, established the Chernobyl Forum in 2003 to improve measures addressing the impact of the accident.