International community cheers Ukraine for Chernobyl closure

Associated Press

By MARINA SYSOYEVA Associated Press Writer

December 05, 2000

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) - Foreign lawmakers, lenders and diplomats tried Tuesday to soothe Ukrainian legislators angry over the financial and social cost of closing the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.

Following years of pressure from foreign governments and environmental groups, Ukraine has promised to close the last reactor at Chernobyl, site of the world's worst nuclear accident, on Dec. 15.

Ukrainian authorities invited representatives of foreign parliaments, financial institutions and diplomatic headquarters to take part in a parliamentary hearing Tuesday dedicated to the closure.

The visitors praised the difficult decision and reiterated promises to help compensate Ukraine for the electricity and jobs Chernobyl provides.

"Once Chernobyl is closed, Ukraine will not be left alone. We will be with Ukraine for many years to come," said Vice President of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Developement Joachim Jahncke.

But Ukrainian lawmakers and government officials at Tuesday's session accused the international community of lagging on promised financial support.

"Sometimes it's hard to understand the logic, in which the ... fulfillment of the obligations is significantly and obviously slowed," President Leonid Kuchma said, quoted by the Interfax news agency.

Also, some lawmakers protested new conditions the international community is demanding before releasing aid for the closure.

Jahncke said the only new requirement is the creation of an independent Ukrainian agency to regulate and control nuclear safety, replacing existing government organs.

The EBRD's board is to decide Thursday whether to give the former Soviet republic a dlrs 100 million loan to buy fuel for its non-nuclear power plants to avoid energy shortages this winter.

Parliament speaker Ivan Pliushch, who said last month that Ukraine could delay the closure until it sees real aid, admitted Tuesday that a delay was unlikely. "Further use of Chernobyl without serious investments and repairs is impossible," he said.

The closure, including compensation for energy and jobs and safety measures for the plant, is expected to cost more than dlrs 1.4 billion. Of that, dlrs 215 million is to come from the EBRD, dlrs 585 million from the European Union, dlrs 350 million from credit agencies from the United States, France, Sweden and Spain, dlrs 105 million from Russia, and dlrs 160 million from Ukraine's state Energoatom nuclear company.

On April 26, 1986, Chernobyl's No. 4 nuclear reactor exploded and caught fire, sending a radioactive cloud over much of Europe.

Copyright 2000 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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