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Thursday, July 8, 1999 Published at 07:29 GMT 08:29 UK

World: Europe

Schröder confronts Chernobyl dilemma

Chernobyl is still online despite the disaster in 1986

The German Chancellor, Gerhard Schröder, is paying a two-day visit to Ukraine to discuss the future of the country's nuclear power stations.

At issue is the replacement of the Chernobyl complex, which is due to be closed down next year.

A fire at one of the Chernobyl reactors in 1986 caused one of the world's worst nuclear disasters, but part of the plant is still functioning.

The Ukrainian government maintains it cannot provide enough electricity without two new nuclear power stations, but correspondents say Mr Schröder hopes to persuade the Ukrainians to build conventional generators instead.

[ image: Leonid Kuchma:
Leonid Kuchma: "needs the money"
The German Chancellor will meet Ukraine's President, Leonid Kuchma, and try to convince him that non-nuclear alternatives are a viable option.

Ukraine was promised help in replacing its nuclear power stations by the G-7 group of industrialised nations in 1995. Over a billion dollars of funding for new nuclear plants was due to be approved at the G-7 summit in Cologne, but the deal was delayed by Germany.

Debate at home

Chancellor Schröder's government came to power in September last year after campaigning for the rapid closure of all nuclear power plants in Germany.

The issue has caused great tension within Germany's coalition government, even prompting predictions of a possible breakup over the issue.

Correspondents say Mr Schröder can ill-afford to agree to co-finance nuclear power in Ukraine while promoting a phase-out at home.

The need for power

[ image: Gerhard Schröder: victory on no-nukes platform]
Gerhard Schröder: victory on no-nukes platform
According to his spokesman, Uwe-Karsten Heye, the chancellor will bring "concrete proposals for alternatives of a non-nuclear type".

If he does not succeed in persuading the Ukrainians, Mr Heye said, the contracts signed under former Chancellor Helmut Kohl's government will have to be honoured.

Despite Mr Schröder's efforts at the G-7 summit in June, the other G-7 leaders decided against blocking completion of the two new nuclear plants.

Nearly half of Ukraine's energy is nuclear powered, and Kiev argues that it cannot shut down Chernobyl as agreed unless a replacement is put in place by the West.

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