International Atomic Energy Agency
(Unofficial electronic version)
8 September 1997
Forty-first regular session
B. International Initiative for Chernobyl SarcophagusOn 29 August 1997, the Director General received a request from the United States of America for the inclusion of this item in the agenda for the Conference's forty-first regular session. An explanatory memorandum, required under Rule 20 of the Rules of Procedure, is reproduced overleaf.
INTERNATIONAL INITIATIVE FOR CHERNOBYL SARCOPHAGUS
G-7 Countries Support MOU Sarcophagus Project. The heads of state and government of the Group of Seven industrialized democracies reaffirm their commitment to assisting Ukraine to successfully implement the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Closing Chernobyl by the year 2000. The MOU outlines a comprehensive program of energy sector reform, power sector investments, nuclear safety assistance and local development planning to ensure that Ukraine can safely close Chernobyl while continuing to meet its electric power needs. Work is underway on projects totalling roughly $1.5 billion in support of the MOU. The G-7 is prepared to begin work with Ukraine on a major new MOU nuclear safety project, the Shelter Implementation Project (SIP), to implement a cost-effective, environmentally sound solution to the problems posed by the sarcophagus entombing the highly radioactive remains of the exploded Chernobyl unit.
G-7 Call on International Donors to Match G-7 $300 Million Pledge. To demonstrate their support for the SIP, the G-7 countries, together with the European Union, pledged a total of $300 million at the Denver Summit to help implement the project. Ukraine, too, is mobilizing resources for the SIP. The heads of state and government of the Group of Seven industrialized democracies call on other international donors to join them in helping Ukraine repair the crumbling concrete and steel sarcophagus. The G-7 and Ukraine endorse the SIP developed by an international team of experts to transform the sarcophagus into a safer, more environmentally stable condition and call on other international donors, both public and private, to join them at a pledging conference in New York this Fall to raise funds needed to complete this approximately $750 million undertaking.
The Chernobyl Shelter Fund. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is working with the G-7 and Ukraine to mobilize international donor support for the SIP. The EBRD is to establish a Chernobyl Shelter Fund to manage the money collected and finance SIP implementation through specific grants. Governments contributing to the fund will form an Assembly of Contributors which will oversee implementation of the SIP. Experts from the EBRD are working with the international SIP team, and the Bank is prepared to begin tendering initial tasks when funds are available, including selection of the project management unit which will provide overall integration of the complex SIP project.
Preventing a New Disaster. The sarcophagus stands today as a stark reminder of the world's worst nuclear accident, which killed dozens of people in 1986 and spewed forth a plume of radioactive fallout stretching across the entire northern hemisphere. Although only a small portion of the radioactive contents of the Chernobyl reactor escaped in 1986, over 25,000 square kilometers of land in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine were severely contaminated and abandoned. Over 90% of the highly radioactive waste created by the original accident remains today inside the sarcophagus.
Built under incredibly adverse conditions by heroic worker known as liquidators, the sarcophagus was not intended to be long-term solution to the problems posed by the radioactive remains of the destroyed reactor. Just as the original liquidators are exhibiting the deleterious health effects of the radioactive exposures endured in constructing the sarcophagus, the structure itself is displaying signs of increasing instability and deterioration. If nothing is done, the present structure may collapse, releasing a radioactive dust cloud in the immediate vicinity and exposing the huge remaining inventory of radioactive wastes to the elements and the environment. This would create another Chernobyl incident requiring large numbers of emergency workers to expose themselves to dangerous levels of radiation in uncontrolled conditions as they worked to seal off the ruins as quickly as possible.
Safety for Chernobyl. Without help, Ukraine can not afford to fix this problem inherited form the former Soviet Union. The SIP is a complex 8-year program, costing approximately $750 million and consisting of over 200 activities, aimed at reducing the threat of collapse, controlling the radioactive wastes inside, and improving the condition of the sarcophagus making it safer and more environmentally stable pending final disposition of its radioactive inventory. With international financial and technical support, Ukraine will be able to do this work safely, eliminating the threats posed by the sarcophagus without creating a new generation of liquidators.
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