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Ukraine: Chornobyl Shuts Down

Kyiv, 15 December 2000 (RFE/RL) - Ukraine today is due to close down the Chornobyl nuclear power plant, the site of the world's worst civilian nuclear accident 14 years ago. President Leonid Kuchma will give the order to start shutting down the plant's last remaining functioning reactor at noon. Dignitaries from around the world are expected to attend the shutdown order ceremony at the Ukrainian Palace in Kyiv. Kuchma said yesterday that Chornobyl's closure will make the world a safer place. Work to remove remaining nuclear fuel and make the plant environmentally safe is expected to continue for many years.

The April 26, 1986 explosion and fire at Chornobyl's reactor number four contaminated large areas of Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia, and spewed a radioactive cloud over Europe. More than 4,000 people involved in the cleanup have died. Tens of thousands of people have been disabled by radiation exposure, and millions of others are considered to have been affected.

Ukraine agreed to close the plant in exchange for international financial aid to complete replacement reactors elsewhere. But some oppose the plant's shutdown, saying it will cause Ukrainians to lose jobs. (For more on the Chornobyl disaster and the destruction it caused, see: "Chornobyl Killed Thousands, Changed Attitudes To Nuclear Energy.")