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Ukraine: Western Countries And Russia Pledge Safety Program For Chernobyl

London, 11 May 1998 (RFE/RL) -- Foreign Ministers of major Western countries and Russia say they hope a $760 million plan aimed at making the Chernobyl nuclear power plant safe can be completed by 2006.

The Foreign Ministers issued the statement last Saturday (May 9) after a two-day meeting in London to prepare the way for next week's G-7 plus Russia summit in the British city of Birmingham.

The statement says good progress has been made in establishing a new international fund to finance safety improvements on the concrete sarcophagus at the ruined Chernobyl reactor. The statement says over half the sum has been raised. It calls on countries which have not yet pledged funds to join the 18 countries and the EU which have already given money.

The concrete sarcophagus was built at Chernobyl's ruined No.4 reactor after it blew apart on April 26, 1986. There have been worries for years that radioactivity may leak from the cracked structure.

The statement says the G-7 countries and Russia will continue to work closely to help the countries of Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet republics to improve nuclear safety.

The foreign ministers said they will fully meet commitments made at the 1996 Moscow Summit on Nuclear Safety and Security.

They pledged to ensure their governments participate actively in the work of international conventions on the safety of nuclear power plans and spent fuel and radioactive waste management.

The statement said they discussed the situation at the reactor number one of the Kursk nuclear power plant, and agreed on the need to fully observe a nuclear safety accord concerning the plant.

The ministers noted that Russian authorities have invited a team from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development to examine safety conditions at the Kursk reactor later this month jointly with a team from Gosatomnadzor.

One of the activities of the London-based EBRD is to lend money to improve nuclear safety at plants in the eastern countries.

The statement noted that Russian authorities have undertaken that any further operation of the Kursk reactor prior to the completion of an in-depth safety review should comply with the recommendations of the visiting teams of experts.

The statement says it is important to develop and implement national and international agreements setting out who is liable in the event of nuclear accidents or radioactive leaks.

The 16-page statement leads off by emphasizing environment concerns, including the need to sustain the world's forests and oceans, and to promote access to fresh water and prevent desertification.

The G-7 countries comprise Canada, France, Italy, Japan, Germany, United Kingdom and the United States.