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The BBC's Linda Duffin
"The reactor is leaking radiation"
 real 28k

Hans Blix, Assoc for the Chernobyl Shelter Fund
"Will be reliable for decades to come"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 5 July, 2000, 15:39 GMT 16:39 UK
Chernobyl aid pledged
Chernobyl nuclear plant
The shell over Chernobyl's wrecked reactor is leaking
Western donors have pledged an extra $370m to make safe the Chernobyl nuclear reactor which killed an estimated 30,000 people during the world's worst nuclear disaster in 1986.

The announcement came after a two-day conference in Berlin involving some 40 countries.

This brings to $715m the fund pledged by international governments for the urgent repairs to the concrete sarcophagus covering the ruined fourth reactor.

In return, Ukraine promised to shut down the entire Chernobyl plant.

Kuchma and Clinton
President Kuchma (left) says Chernobyl will be closed this year
Ukraine's President, Leonid Kuchma, said the plant's last working reactor should be de-activated by the end of the year.

But Kiev wants to go ahead with controversial plans to complete two new nuclear plants to replace the power-supply from Chernobyl.

'Time bomb'

Mr Kuchma says in its present state Chernobyl remains "a time bomb".

The Soviet-built shell over the reactor has been leaking almost since the day it was built and experts say a new cover is needed.

Within the existing concrete casing lie about 200 tons of highly radioactive dust and melted nuclear fuel and debris.

According to officials, water is penetrating through many leaks. The risk of radioactive dust escaping into the surrounding atmosphere, or of highly contaminated water seeping into the national water supply is high.

There are fears that the concrete sarcophagus could collapse, causing another plume of radioactive dust to contaminate the surrounding countryside.

Appeal for funds

The European Union and Group of Seven industrialised nations undertook in 1995 to find a safer and more permanent form of protection for the ruined reactor.

Chernobyl reactors
Unit 4: exploded, 1986
Unit 2: closed in 1991 after major fire
Unit 1: closed in 1996 at G7's request
Unit 3: closing December 2000
A first conference of donors was held in November 1997 in New York to gather the funds needed, but only raised about $300m from the EU and G7 countries.

Once the repairs to the reactor cover have been completed in 2005, it is envisaged that it will remain safe for another 50 to 100 years.

There are also long-term plans for a more radical programme to make Chernobyl safe for future generations.

Ideas proposed so far include constructing a hermetically sealed dome over the existing plant, or, more ambitiously, removing the radioactive debris and returning Chernobyl to a green field site.

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See also:

05 Jun 00 | Europe
Chernobyl closure saga
10 May 00 | Sci/Tech
Chernobyl's effects linger on
22 Apr 00 | Europe
Deadly toll of Chernobyl
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