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Ukraine plans summit for 25th anniversary of Chernobyl nuclear disaster

April 26, 2011 - UKRAINE

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych plans an international summit on Apr 19 in Kiev, a few days ahead of the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor explosion on 26 Apr. He plans to seek more aid to enclose the damaged reactors and address continuing problems from the accident. Donors might balk at the cost. The 25th anniversary will see memorials, vigils and bigger-than-usual protests, with Japan's Fukushima crisis feeding anti-nuclear sentiment.

The cost has ballooned to billions of dollars and the reactors are still not contained. The explosion spread radiation over much of Europe, making parts of Ukraine and Belarus uninhabitable. . A makeshift concrete and steel structure was built over the reactor after the accident. The country has already received millions in Western aid for projects to contain the radiation. One launched in 1997 under a pledge from leaders of the G-7 countries was supposed to fund enclosing the reactor in a permanent, sealed sarcophagus. In April Yanukovich told Thomas Mirow, the president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, that his country needs hundreds of millions more for the project. Most of the delays and cost increases are blamed on corruption and cronyism in the Ukraine, and to the political turmoil that has embroiled the country since the 2004 Orange Revolution. President Viktor Yanukovych laid wreaths at the monument to Chernobyl victims on the 24th anniversary and visited the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant on the same day to lay flowers at the Memorial of Heroes-Accident Rescuers near the northern gate. Similar observances can be expected for the 25th anniversary. Yanukovych pledged to take better care of the Chernobyl victims and those who still suffer from related diseases. The president said that some 2 million people suffer illnesses caused by the radiation, adding that the reactor remains a serious threat to Europe. Japanese engineers had been struggling to stop the leaks of radioactive water as they battle the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl after a earthquake and tsunami hit northeast Japan on Mar 11. Big demonstrations and vigils can be expected for the 25th anniversary, particularly in Minsk and at the Sizewell nuclear reactor in England. Protesters rallied and marched in Minsk for the 24th anniversary in opposition to potential plans for a new nuclear reactor in Belarus and demanding more help for the Chernobyl victims. For the 24th anniversary, protesters blocked the entrance to nuclear power plants Sizewell A and B, protesting against proposals to build a new reactor, Sizewell C. The protest was followed by a memorial to the Chernobyl victims.

Japan stops radioactive leaks into sea from crippled nuclear plant (Reuters 5 Apr 2011)

Row breaks out around Lukashenko over Chernobyl summit (Reuters 20 Mar 2011)

Ukraine Leader Says Kiev Needs More Chernobyl Funds (ABC 26 Apr 2010)

Chernobyl leaking: leaking radiation and sucking up Canadian money (Globe & Mail 1 Feb 2010)

Chernobyl Way is held in Minsk (Charter97 26 Apr 2010)

Date written/update: 2011-04-26