International efforts to make the scene of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident environmentally safe have taken a major step forward, according to a press –release, forwarded to UNIAN by EBRD. Today Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant signed two important contracts, one to build a new steel structure to seal off the damaged unit 4 with the Novarka consortium and another one to complete the spent nuclear fuel storage with Holtec International.

      Currently unit 4 is protected by a shelter built immediately after the accident in 1986 under extremely hazardous conditions and which, despite recent successful stabilisation works, is decaying.

      The “New Safe Confinement” will be an arch-shaped structure 105 metres high, 150 metres long and with a span of 260 metres. It will be constructed on the site and later be slid over unit 4.

      Construction work is expected to take 48-52 months and the shelter will then create the conditions for the ultimate dismantling of Chernobyl’s unit 4 which still contains 95 percent of its original nuclear inventory.

      Construction of the New Safe Confinement is the most visible project under the Chernobyl Shelter Implementation Plan (SIP) agreed between the Government of Ukraine and the international community in 1997. The plan contained many other elements which had to be completed over recent years in order to allow work on the confinement to begin. The total SIP cost is now estimated to be $1.39 billion.

      A second contract which was signed with Holtec International is equally important.

Holtec’s assignment is to complete the spent nuclear fuel storage facility for more than twenty thousand spent fuel assemblies generated during the operation of the Units 1-3 up to December 2000. An approximately 1.5 year design and regulatory approval phase will be followed by delivery and installation of the equipment.

      The facility, to ensure safe and secure storage of the Chernobyl spent fuel for one hundred years, is a key element of the overall Chernobyl decommissioning plan.

      International donors have made significant contributions to finance these projects via donations to the Chernobyl Shelter Fund and the Nuclear Safety Account, which are managed by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

      Together with the Government of Ukraine the Bank also ensures supervision of the effective implementation of the projects. 

      EBRD President Jean Lemierre said this is an important day for Ukraine and the world. “This shows what Ukraine and the international community working together can achieve on a very difficult and complex issue. Everything that has been achieved so far is proof of the determination of all parties concerned to work together, to overcome difficulties and to find and implement joint solutions. The successful implementation of the project depends not only on the progress of the construction work, but also on the continued commitment of both the Ukrainian authorities and the international community.”

      As of end-June 2007, the Chernobyl Shelter Fund has recorded total contributions of ?739 million from the following donors: Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, European Community, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Luxemburg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Donations have been made by Iceland, Israel, Korea, Portugal, the Slovak Republic and Slovenia.

      The Nuclear Safety Account has so far received contributions of ? 285 million from: Belgium, Canada, Denmark, the European Community, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, The Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Ukraine and the United States.