The Verkhovna Rada (parliament) of Ukraine has adopted the draft Law “On Ratification of Framework Agreement between the European Bank for Reconstruction & Development Regarding the International Chernobyl Cooperation Account”. Ratification of the Framework Agreement will make it possible to create a mechanism for managing the activities of the International Chernobyl Cooperation Account (ICCA) and to give grants to Ukraine for support and funding of nuclear and radiation safety projects at Chornobyl NPP site and in Exclusion Zone.

 State Agency of Ukraine on Exclusion Zone Management and Chornobyl NPP (ChNPP), reporting the ratification noted: “It is also important that these projects will be focused on recovering the damage caused by the invasion of armed forces of the Russian Federation, namely on restoring the safe conditions at ChNPP, in the Exclusion Zone, as well as at other nuclear installations and radioactive waste management facilities in Ukraine.

On 26 April 1986 the Chornobyl nuclear power plant in northern Ukraine became the site of the worst ever nuclear accident. A massive steam explosion destroyed the reactor hall of unit 4 and radioactive material was released, affecting large parts of Ukraine, Belarus and Russia, but also reaching western Europe.

The European Bank for Reconstruction & Development (EBRD) was tasked by the international community with managing the funds financing the efforts to transform Chornobyl into a safe and secure state. The EBRD has been assisting Ukraine to address the challenge of making Chornobyl safe and secure since it was first invited by the country and the G7 to manage dedicated donor funds in 1995.

More than €2bn ($2.17bn) has been received for EBRD-managed Chornobyl projects from 45 donors. The EBRD has contributed €715m of its own resources in support of the work to transform Chornobyl into an environmentally safe and secure site. The original hastily constructed shelter (sarcophagus) over the destroyed ChNPP unit 4 was becoming unstable and the international Shelter Implementation Plan in the 1990s had three phases – firstly to stabilise it and secondly to build a larger secure construction to enclose it – the New Safe Confinement (NSC) which was completed in 2017 to pave the way for the dismantling and decommissioning stage.

The ICCA was established in November 2020 by the EBRD, at the request of the government of Ukraine, to support the development of a comprehensive plan for Chornobyl. Since the start of the war against Ukraine the Account remit has been widened to include a range of measures to support the restoration of nuclear safety, security and decommissioning abilities within the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone. The Accounts remit now also permits activities across the nuclear sector in Ukraine in support of nuclear safety, subject to the agreement of the Assembly of Contributors.

The first ICCA Grant Agreement was signed in March 2023 to support the restoration of fire safety within the Exclusion Zone. Further work is underway to support a safety analysis of the “Object Shelter” and provide support for transportation infrastructure and New Safe Confinement operations. A second grant agreement signed in February 2024 provides for, among other things, the completion of pre-design activities of the NSC and the on-going dismantling of the unstable structures within it, as well as the procurement of vehicles and equipment.

Minister of Environmental Protection & Natural Resources, Ruslan Strilets, in a statement on the Ministry website welcomed the agreement with the EBRD as “a truly revolutionary decision”. He added: “Ukraine will be able to receive assistance from partner countries, the number of which is growing. Today we have 18 contributors, including the United States, Great Britain, Germany, France, Canada, etc. The Fund already has €14m. We are waiting for the official registration of these contributions. More accurate data of the EBRD as administrator of the Account will be provided at the next meeting of the Assembly of Contributors of the Account on 2 July 2 this year.”

According to the EBRD website: “Over the longer term ICCA will focus on support for sustainable site infrastructure and longer term safe operation of decommissioning infrastructure within the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone, in particular those facilities which were supported through long term international collaboration. The impact of the Russian war against Ukraine will need to be assessed on an ongoing basis, but it is clear that the capacity for stable site operations has been severely undermined, and the challenges for Ukraine to continue safe decommissioning of one of the world’s most challenging nuclear facilities will be immense.”