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Ukraine: Experts Begin Chernobyl Stabilization

Kyiv, 17 April 1997 (RFE/RL) - An official at Ukraine's Chernobyl nuclear power plant says an international team of experts is to start work next week on stabilizing the sarcophagus surrounding a reactor destroyed in a 1986 explosion.

The explosion triggered the world's worst-ever civilian nuclear accident. Emergency teams quickly erected a cement sarcophagus to prevent the further leaking of radioactivity into the environment.

Chernobyl's deputy director general, Valery Kupnyi, today told Interfax that the safety of the structure raises concerns, with some 200 tons of highly radioactive material still inside.

Press reports say concerns focus on cracks in the sarcophagus, and some analysts question its ability to withstand a strong earthquake.

An official with Ukraine's emergencies ministry told AFP today that a nuclear waste treatment facility will be built to handle radioactive waste from an exclusion zone around the plant and from within the reactor. He said international financing may be sought.