Monday, May 24, 1999 Published at 09:49 GMT 10:49 UK
Chernobyl legacy mounts
31 people died in the immediate aftermath
By Alex Kirby, News Online Environment Correspondent and presenter of BBC Radio Four's Costing the Earth
A senior Ukrainian Government scientist, Dr Georgiy Lisichenco, says some of the effects of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster will not peak until the second half of the next century.
The Dnieper, Ukraine's principal river, supplies Kiev and much of the country with drinking water.
Dr Lisichenco said, in an interview for the BBC's Costing the Earth programme, that the contamination could be a particular problem for areas in the south of the country which rely on river water for irrigating crops.
Reactor number four at Chernobyl exploded early on 26 April 1986, killing 31 people in the immediate aftermath. The subsequent number of deaths the released radioactivity has caused are unknown.
The level of thyroid cancers among children living nearby has risen substantially - a 20-fold increase in parts of Belarus, and smaller increases in Ukraine itself and in parts of south-western Russia.
Nor does he think the West will honour its pledge to fund the completion of two new reactors at Khmelnitsky and Rovno in western Ukraine, to compensate for the closure of Chernobyl.
Dr Dudchenko says Ukraine will itself pay for the Soviet-designed reactors, which are 85% complete, to be finished.
The only way of bringing them near to Western safety standards would be a hugely expensive retro-fit, which is far beyond Ukraine's ability to fund.
The study group chairman, Professor John Surrey of the University of Sussex, says it came under high-level political pressure to think again.
And the former chairman of the World Association of Nuclear Operators, Remy Carle of France, says the French nuclear industry has used its influence to try to make sure the two new reactors are built.