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The BBC's Andrew Harding
"Vast areas around the plant remain too dangerous to live in"
 real 28k

The BBC's Paul Reynolds
"President Clinton said he was very proud to be in Kiev to hear the announcement"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 6 June, 2000, 05:45 GMT 06:45 UK
Chernobyl to close
Chernobyl: site of the world's worst nuclear disaster
The damaged Chernobyl nuclear power station is to close permanently in December.

The news was announced in a joint statement issued by US President Bill Clinton and the Ukrainian leader, Leonid Kuchma, during Mr Clinton's brief visit to Kiev on Monday.

The American president hailed it as an "historic announcement".

Chernobyl toll
31 killed immediately
15,000 relief workers killed
50,000 relief workers invalid
5 million exposed to radiation
52,000 fled the area

The power station, 110km (70 miles) north of the Ukrainian capital Kiev, was the scene of the world's worst nuclear accident in 1986.

The blast killed 31 people outright and has been held responsible for thousands of deaths since then.

Financial aid

Mr Clinton said the United States would provide $78m to help contain radiation from the destroyed reactor. Extra work is required on the concrete casing surrounding it.

Western countries have long demanded the closure of the plant.

But as power sources in Ukraine are scarce, one of the plant's four original reactors has continued to be used to produce electricity.

The reactor underwent lengthy repairs last year, but has malfunctioned several times.

Radioactive cloud

President Kuchma said it had not been an easy decision to agree to close Chernobyl but it was a logical one.

"The aim of this decision is to reduce nuclear risks in the world," Mr Kuchma said.

Ukraine has been seeking money to decommission the reactor and bring two new generating plants on stream.

In March, the Ukrainian Government reiterated its pledge to shut the power station, but stressed that the closure depended on the country getting international aid.

The former Soviet republic promised to close the power station in 1995 in exchange for aid from the G7 group of industrialised nations, but repeatedly delayed the closure, saying it had not received the money.

The Ukrainian president said Mr Clinton had undertaken to ask the G7 for assistance in shouldering the costs.

The US will also provide a further $2m for safety measures at other nuclear power plants in Ukraine.

Radioactive cloud

In April 1986, one of Chernobyl's reactors exploded, sending a radioactive cloud across much of Europe.

Following the explosion, radioactivity with an intensity equivalent to 500 of the bombs that destroyed Hiroshima at the end of World War II, was measured in the atmosphere.

The American president travelled to Kiev from Moscow, where he had delivered an address to the Russian parliament.

In a plaza near the gold-domed St. Michael's Monastery, the US president encouraged Ukrainians, who have been looking toward the West and Nato, to continue their efforts to open the nation's economy and further embrace democracy.

"Today, the oppressors are gone. Stalin is gone. The Nazis are gone. The Soviet Union is gone," Mr Clinton said.

"Russia is working to build a new society. But you, the people of Ukraine, you are still here stronger than ever."

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See also:

06 Jun 00 | Media reports
Muted reaction in Kiev
05 Jun 00 | Europe
Analysis: The Chernobyl legacy
05 Jun 00 | Europe
Chernobyl closure saga
10 May 00 | Sci/Tech
Chernobyl's effects linger on
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