Chernobyl donors' meeting fails to collect enough cash
Updated: 2011-04-20 07:56
Pledges total about 550 million euros
KIEV, Ukraine - A donors conference seeking 740 million euros ($1.1 billion) to clean up the Chernobyl disaster site fell well short of its goal on Tuesday, but officials remained optimistic that money will be found to make the world's worst nuclear accident site environmentally safe.
Pledges from nations and organizations at the conference totaled about 550 million euros, along with 29 million euros from Ukraine.
The money is being sought to complete the construction of a gargantuan long-term shelter to cover the nuclear reactor that exploded April 26, 1986, and to build a facility to store waste from the plant's three other decommissioned reactors.
Japan had been one of the top donors in previous years, contributing 72 million euros in total. But this year, after last month's devastating earthquake, tsunami and nuclear power plant crisis, Japan held back from pledging money.
Several other major donors in the past also did not announce pledges on Tuesday, citing their own economic difficulties or impending national elections. Among them were Ireland, Spain and Canada.
But "undoubtedly, the countries that were not ready to offer today are still with us", said French Prime Minister Francois Fillon, whose country pledged 47 million euros. France is the strongest defender of using nuclear power in Europe.
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych reached out to countries not at the conference, saying, "We already have poured 864 million euros into the fund to build the shelter over the reactor. In the months after the blast, workers hastily built a so-called sarcophagus to block off the radiation being spewed from the reactor, but it has already exceeded its proposed service life and has been plagued by structural problems.
The new shelter, which will look like a giant Quonset hut, is to be assembled adjacent to the reactor building and then slid over it on rails. The shelter, designed to last 100 years, is supposed to be in place in 2015, after which the reactor can be disassembled.
The separate spent-fuel storage facility is to hold the waste fuel from the plant's other reactors, which were phased out of service after the blast.
The donors' conference kicked off a week of meetings on the 1986 explosion that spewed a cloud of radiation over much of Europe.
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