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Brussels, 18 April 2011

25 years after Chernobyl, Commission pledges 110m euros to make site safe again


The Chernobyl accident took place on the night of 25 to 26 April 1986 during a test that went dramatically wrong due to design weaknesses and safety rules not being adhered to.

Following the Chernobyl accident, some 200 000 people were evacuated from the vicinity of Chernobyl and a shelter (sometimes referred to as “sarcophagus”) enclosing the remains of Chernobyl NPP Unit 4 was constructed under exceedingly hazardous conditions. Units 1, 2 and 3 were put back into operation, raising the fear of another accident.

Further to the collapse of ex-USSR, the G7 countries and European Commission took the lead in providing assistance to mitigate the consequences of the accident. In 1995 a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the G7, the Commission and Ukraine on the closure of Chernobyl by the year 2000 reflected this commitment.

Since then, the Commission has played a major role in the implementation of the MoU through TACIS and, more recently, through the INSC programme (Instrument for Nuclear Safety Cooperation).

So far the Commission has contributed some €470 million to Chernobyl-related projects, mainly for nuclear safety, but also to improve the living conditions of the local population and to reinforce research programmes. The contributions from EU Member States amount to €452 million.

The international community estimates that the New Safe Confinement requires further investment of €600m and the Interim Spent Fuel Storage Facility 2 - €140 million by 2015.

The pledging conference that takes place on 19 April 2011 in Kiev aims at mobilising international donors' community to bridge the gap required to finalise the projects in Chernobyl.

Commission programmes TACIS and INSC

Working together towards nuclear safety

Following the Chernobyl accident, the Commission launched a nuclear safety programme under TACIS (the general technical assistance programme to the Commonwealth of Independent States) which between 1991 and 2006 allocated €1.3 billion to nuclear safety and security projects (mostly in Russia and Ukraine).

Since 2007 the Commission has expanded its nuclear safety assistance and cooperation to third countries under the Instrument for Nuclear Safety Cooperation (INSC), which has a total budget allocation of €524 million.

A large proportion of the budgets of both programmes were allocated to Chernobyl projects.

Nature of the Instrument for Nuclear Safety Cooperation (INSC)

The INSC programme is the European Community's instrument to promote nuclear safety worldwide. It has a much wider scope than the TACIS; both geographically and in terms of activities. It deals with the overall reinforcement of the capacity of third countries to follow nuclear safety requirements.

However, the INSC programme is not intended to promote nuclear energy. It is up to each individual country to decide about using nuclear energy as part of its energy mix. The Council of the European Union has set operational criteria for cooperation under the INSC.

The INSC programme is also the instrument through which the funds allocated to the international Funds are granted, for example in Chernobyl, or in North-West Russia.

In the framework of this programme regional activities are also developed – such as cooperation with Nuclear Safety Regulatory authorities in Latin America or the mitigation of the legacy of the Uranium mining in Central Asia. The programme has also permitted active cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency, in Vienna, on specific projects.

Chernobyl: a global international effort

The Shelter Implementation Plan (SIP) and the Chernobyl Shelter Fund (CSF)

The shelter built in 1986 was only a temporary solution and in 1997, with the strong support of the European Commission, a group of international experts from the European Union (EU), USA, Japan and Ukraine finalised a multidisciplinary construction management programme known as the Shelter Implementation Plan (SIP).

In 1997 the G7, the Commission and other donors requested the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) to set up the Chernobyl Shelter Fund (CSF) for the implementation of the SIP.

By 2007, ten years after the agreement on the SIP, a number of main tasks had been completed that allowed the start of the construction of a New Safe Confinement (NSC); the last major construction project at the ChNPP site under the Plan.

New Safe Confinement – a unique engineering project

The New Safe Confinement (NSC) will be constructed on site and later be slid over the sarcophagus which shelters the destroyed unit 4. It involves building a giant arch-shaped confinement structure to cover the damaged Chernobyl unit 4, allowing it to be decommissioned in the future.

The NSC is a unique engineering project of huge proportions, and when completed will be big enough to house the Statue of Liberty, with a span of 257 metres, a length of 164 metres, a height of 110 metres and a weight of 29,000 tons.

The Nuclear Safety Account

The Nuclear Safety Account (NSA) was set up in 1993 to finance nuclear safety projects in central and eastern Europe. 29 countries and the European Commission contributed to the NSA. Currently the NSA provides the funds for projects related to the decommissioning of the Chernobyl units 1, 2 and 3, and radioactive waste management. The NSA is also managed by the EBRD.

The Liquid Radiowaste Treatment Plant (LRTP) is nearing completion while the design for the finalisation of the Spent Fuel Storage Facility has recently been approved by the Ukrainian regulator. Now that the respective contract has been signed, work on the site can begin.

European Commission's funded project in Chernobyl

Radioactive waste management projects funded directly by the Commission

An important project for future decommissioning of Chernobyl nuclear power plant is the Industrial Complex for Solid Radwaste Management (ICSRM) which benefited from a total budget of €47 million (of which about €43.5 million were provided by the European Commission).

The ICSRM is intended to treat, condition and safely store the solid radioactive waste presently stored on site at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant as well as to manage solid waste resulting from the decommissioning of units 1 to 3. It includes an engineered low and intermediate level waste storage facility that was handed over to the Ukrainian end-users in December 2007, a Solid and Liquid Waste Storage (SLWS) building (handed over in June 2008) and a waste retrieval and processing facility (handed over in February 2009).

The Commission’s contribution to radioactive waste management activities in the Chernobyl site under TACIS and INSC is €80 million.

Research related projects

In the framework of the fourth Research framework programmes projects covered aspects of emergency management and environmental rehabilitation as well as human health. In total €11 million were allocated to 35 projects. Other projects supported in the fifth Research framework programme focused on radioprotection and emergency management.

Social projects

The Commission's work in nuclear safety has not just been about improving the technical facilities – it has also made sure that it helps those who have had to live with the legacy of Chernobyl to rebuild their lives.

Children of Chernobyl

The Children of Chernobyl projects have been set up to help mothers and children who were contaminated by the catastrophe by providing access to quality healthcare for all newborns in the area, as well as giving parents access to a "better parenting" course.

The project has also provided equipment to hospitals (infant resuscitation set, ventilation set, infant incubator, phototherapy lamp), set up classes in nutrition for vulnerable families in the region and installed open-air playgrounds for young children.

Helping to create jobs

Under TACIS 2005, the Commission has also been supporting a rehabilitation programme to try to encourage local people to return to the Chernobyl area by restarting some former agricultural activities and creating new jobs by setting up a fruit growing business in the area.

We have also been working together with the Ministry of Emergencies since 2009 to help people in the region to overcome the post-accident stigma and encourage growth and business back to the Ivankiev District in the immediate vicinity of the Exclusion Zone.

To this end, a strategy was set up to identify potential business activities that could be quickly implemented with a small investment, creating new jobs and providing taxes for the district.

Four proposed new business ventures have already been given the go-ahead as a result of the scheme – a pilot project to test wood incineration technology to get rid of dry forest waste, a brick production facility, a cattle-breeding business, and a factory to produce rapeseed.

The wood incineration project is especially crucial as, as well as supplying low-cost heating to the areait will also help to prevent the risk of fire from the dry wood.

Horticultural projects

A good example of how the Commission is working in the area is a project in Volodymyrets (the Social and Economic Development of the Districts of the Rivne Region Polluted due to the Chernobyl Catastrophe Project).

We gave 70 families in the region workshops and on-the-ground training on how to grow fruit and berries and provided them with all the seedlings, equipment (such as mini-tractors) and fertilizers needed.

Since then, the participants have done well and have already achieved some success – selling their first strawberries and apples - helping to revitalise the region and encourage others to set up their own businesses.

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