EBRD, Ukraine sign deal on $174 mln grant

10:08, 17 February 2009
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As part of the international Chernobyl cleanup effort

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and Ukraine signed an agreement on Monday for a 135 million euro ($174 million) grant as part of the international Chernobyl cleanup effort, RIA Novosti reported.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko said the grant would help speed up the construction of a new protective shelter over the nuclear reactor and clean the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, the scene of the world`s worst nuclear disaster.

"Issues concerning the construction of a new sarcophagus that could turn the area into an environmentally clean zone remain strategic priorities for Ukraine," Tymoshenko said after the signing ceremony.

EBRD President Thomas Mirow said it was impossible to set any timeframe for the project, which he described as unique. But Mirow said he hoped significant progress will be achieved by 2012, when Ukraine is due to host the UEFA EURO Cup.

The current concrete and steel shell encasing the Chernobyl reactor is badly worn and has undergone numerous reinforcements by a consortium of companies led by Russia`s Atomstroyexport.

The international project to build the new sarcophagus was earlier estimated at around $1.2 billion.

A joint venture of France`s Vinci Construction Grands Projets and Bouygues won a tender in 2007 to design the shelter announced by the EBRD in 2004.

Reactor number four at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant exploded in April 1986, following a test. The explosion caused a fire, resulting in a critical nuclear meltdown.

Vast areas, mainly in the three then-Soviet republics of Ukraine, Belarus and Russia, were contaminated by the fallout of the explosion. International estimates as to the number of deaths caused by the accident vary widely.

Fifty-six people were reported to have been killed at the scene of the disaster, and another 4,000 believed to have died of thyroid cancer shortly afterwards. Several million more people are thought to have been exposed to different degrees of radiation.

About 5 million people still live in areas of Belarus, Russia and Ukraine classified as "contaminated" by radioactive elements.

RIA Novosti

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