As Chernobyl continues to leak, Ukraine seeks $1 billion in funds

A visitor takes a self portrait in front of the 4th power block of the Chernobyl Nuclear Plant.

Ukraine is seeking $1 billion to seal Chernobyl, the site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster, but there’s concern that the accident at Fukushima in Japan may make it hard to raise funds.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych hosts a conference today in Kiev to get funding for a new containment shelter 25 years after Chernobyl’s No. 4 reactor exploded. European Commission President Jose Barroso urged states to contribute as a venture involving France’s Vinci SA and Bouygues SA works on the foundations.

“I am confident [the conference] will bring about the desirable results … to secure the necessary funds to complete the safety work at the site,” Barroso said.

Japan’s battle to contain four damaged reactors at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant has reignited the debate about Chernobyl, whose makeshift shelter has five years left in its lifespan and still leaks radiation. The Ukrainian government warned aid may fall short as governments cut spending.

“The Fukushima disaster gives a renewed sense of urgency [for Chernobyl],” said Mark Hibbs, a nuclear analyst at the Carnegie Endowment. “Everybody said that Chernobyl could never  happen again.”

The anniversary

The conference is part of a week of commemorations centering on the April 26, 1986, meltdown that killed at least 31 plant workers and firefighters and forced the evacuation of a quarter of a million people.

The meeting, planned before the Japanese earthquake and tsunami damaged the 40-year-old Fukushima plant, has been given new significance, President Yanukovych said. On April 12, Japan raised the severity rating at the stricken Fukushima plant to seven, the same as Chernobyl, as radiation leaks continue.

“To overcome a tragedy of such a large scale cannot be done by one country,” Yanukovych said. “Events in Japan showed that such catastrophes are a challenge for all of mankind.”


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