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The 30th anniversary of the 26 April 1986 Chernobyl accident has focused international attention on continuing remediation of the affected areas. The European Commission (EC) pledged to the Nuclear Safety Account (NSA) fund the largest part of some €45m ($51m) expected from the G7 and the EC in addition to existing support. The NSA, managed by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, was set up in 1993 to finance nuclear safety projects in Central and Eastern Europe and receives contributions from 29 countries and the EC.

The European Union's (EU's) contribution was announced on 25 April at the Nuclear Safety Account Pledging Conference in Kiev. This contribution is in addition to those already provided to the Chernobyl Shelter Fund (CSF) for the construction of the New Safe Confinement (the Shelter) and to other related projects to isolate and ultimately dismantle the unit which suffered the accident. The Shelter, to be completed in 2017, will prevent radioactive releases and contribute to make the site environmentally safe and stable. The EU is the main donor to this project with around €430m.

The NSA fund provides funds for the decommissioning of the three remaining Chernobyl units, including the construction of a storage facility for used nuclear fuel from their operation. Following the accident, which destroyed unit 4, units 1-3 continued to operate for some years. Unit 2 shut down in 1991, unit 1 in 1996 and unit 3 in 2000.

Decommissioning officially began in April 2015, following approval by the State Inspectorate for Nuclear Regulation of Ukraine (SNRC). The first phase - final shutdown and preservation - is expected to take 10 years. The main project currently supported by the fund is the interim used fuel storage facility (ISF2). Its completion is foreseen for 2017. The facility will provide for the processing and storage of the used nuclear fuel from units 1- 3.

An EC statement noted that the Commission has funded a number of assistance projects in Chernobyl, worth some €550m. In addition to contributions to international funds (the CSF and NSA), the Commission funded projects to study, assess and mitigate the consequences of Chernobyl accident and for the processing and storage of radioactive waste at the site. Other projects addressed the social and regional consequences of the Chernobyl accident and provided for power replacement following the closure of the plant, as well as reform of the energy sector in Ukraine.

In total, the EC has committed around €730m so far to Chernobyl projects in four ways: first, €550m for assistance projects, of which €470m were channelled through international funds, and €80m implemented directly by the EC; second, power generation support of €65m; third, €15m for social projects; and finally, €100m for research projects.

At another international conference on 25 April in Minsk (Belarus), delegates called for transforming the areas of Belarus most affected by fallout from Chernobyl - Paleski State Radiation and Ecological Reserve - into an international research centre. It may host radiation safety studies to be carried out by international teams of experts.

The conference was organized by the Belarus Council of Ministers and the UN Development Programme, and was attended by government officials and public figures, as well as foreign diplomats and experts, and representatives of international organisations including the International Atomic Energy Agency, the OSCE and the World Bank.

The conference declaration said that the international community should focus on joint efforts toward the rehabilitation and sustainable development of the Chernobyl-affected areas, as well as work to spread unique knowledge and exchange the experience of handling the Chernobyl aftermath.

Pledging to continue a programme of international technical assistance for the purpose of achieving the sustainable economic, environmental and social development of the affected areas, the participants warned that priority should also be given to strengthening countries' capabilities to prevent and respond to emergencies, monitor radiation levels, forecast accident risks and develop educational programmes.

International cooperation in the sphere should be aimed, among other things, at improving the standard of health care for Chernobyl-hit people, rehabilitating contaminated land and strengthening nuclear safety.

Date: Tuesday, 26 April 2016
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