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Brussels, 21 April 2006

Commission actions since the Chernobyl Disaster

The 26th April will mark the 20th anniversary of the nuclear accident at Chernobyl. Since then, the European Commission has allocated over €470 million to Chernobyl-related projects. This assistance has supported safety improvements at Chernobyl, and provided help to people whose lives are still affected by the accident. The Commission has supported projects which address the social, health and environmental consequences of the disaster. Over and above the aid provided specifically to cope with the aftermath of Chernobyl, the Commission has also made a major contribution to the improvement of nuclear safety across the countries of the former Soviet Union.

The Commissioner for External Relations and the European Neighbourhood Policy, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, said: “The European Union has been at the forefront of the international efforts to mitigate the consequences of the Chernobyl accident. Overall the European Commission has allocated nearly half a billion euros to Chernobyl related projects, and we will continue working to ensure that the legacy of the Chernobyl disaster will be a safer environment for the people of the region and a more secure world for us all”.

Making the Chernobyl site safe

As the largest donor to the Chernobyl Shelter Fund, the Commission has pledged some €240 million (over a quarter of the total) for the construction of a new shell over the damaged reactor. This will prevent releases of radiation from the existing “sarcophagus”, now almost 20 years old. In addition the Commission has allocated €50 million to the Industrial Complex for Solid Radioactive Waste Management (ICSRM), currently under construction, which will safely handle waste from the Chernobyl site.

The Commission has provided a further €20 million to the Nuclear Safety Account, a fund managed by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, around half of which covers projects at Chernobyl

In 1995, the G7 and Ukraine signed a Memorandum of Understanding where Ukraine committed having all the remaining reactors at Chernobyl closed by 2000. The Commission played a major role in this agreement and, amongst other initiatives, committed €65 million to help Ukraine compensate for the additional costs of power generation following the closure of the reactors.

Health and environmental consequences

The Commission has allocated €100 million to research and assistance to help mitigate the health and environmental consequences of the accident. Researchers from the EU and former Soviet Union addressed issues including: improved methods for treating highly exposed accident victims, decontamination strategies for urban and rural areas, measures to reduce contamination in foodstuffs, epidemiological studies of exposed populations, emergency management and the development of a European atlas of Chernobyl contamination.

Examples of the assistance provided in this context include: equipment and training for the diagnosis and treatment of thyroid cancer in young people, facilities to produce thyroxin (for the sufferers of thyroid cancer), iodisation of table salt to help prevent the onset of thyroid cancer, information centres in several settlements both to inform and encourage more active involvement of the local population in the recovery process.

Socio-economic consequences

The Commission has granted €3.5 million to alleviate the social impact of the closure of Chernobyl by creating alternative sources of employment. This targeted people living in Slavutich (mostly workers from the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, employees of auxiliary industries and their families).

The Commission has also allocated €6 million to the Cooperation for Rehabilitation Programme (CORE) in Belarus. This funds economic, social, health, and cultural projects which promote socio-economic recovery in the four contaminated regions of Belarus. The programme will also support several projects to create better employment conditions in the region.

Nuclear safety

The Chernobyl accident spurred efforts to improve the safety of nuclear plants designed in the former Soviet Union. In addition to the aid for the Chernobyl site mentioned above, a further €900 million has been allocated to other nuclear safety projects in the CIS. The Tacis Nuclear Safety Programme covers a vast array of projects to improve the safety of nuclear installations and resolve nuclear waste issues, particularly in North-West Russia.

The Programme has allocated large sums to the modernisation of the nuclear industry in the former Soviet Union, where nuclear power plants have shown clear progressed a long way towards meeting internationally recognized nuclear safety standards. The Commission has proposed to continue its assistance to improve the nuclear safety in third countries over the next financial period (2007-2013) though a new Nuclear Safety Instrument.

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