UKRAINE: Final Chernobyl reactor to cease operation by 15 December

US President Bill Clinton completed his last visit to the former USSR region by announcing, jointly with Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma, a date for the closure of Reactor Three, the only remaining operational Chernobyl reactor.

Wrangles over the closure of Reactor Three have centred around funding from G7 countries to ensure security of the Chernobyl site and to provide money for the construction of new nuclear power stations or non-nuclear stations in the Ukraine.

Clinton secured the announcement of Chernobyl’s final closure with the promise of $US80 million to secure the site. Funding to assist Ukraine’s ailing electricity generation industry has not yet been agreed. Last month, Germany, Sweden and Austria said that the EU should only agree to finance construction of non-nuclear stations in Ukraine, such as gas-fired power stations (see related story).

The accident at Reactor Four in 1986 was the worst nuclear accident or explosion the world has seen. Experts agree that it is impossible to know the total negative health impacts resulting from the accident, but an epidemic of thyroid cancer in adolescents in Ukraine and Belarus has been recorded. The United Nations has stated that an area of 155,000km² has been contaminated – in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia.

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