Ukrainian President Seeks Support To Recover From Nuclear Disaster

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko on Wednesday called for further support from the international community so that the country can recover from the continuing effects of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

Maria Buriak, a seven years old girl suffering from cancer, sits in a children's hospital in Kiev. Greenpeace said in a new report that more than 90,000 people were likely to die of cancers caused by radiation from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

During an exclusive interview with Kyodo News ahead of the 20th anniversary of the accident on April 26, the president said that recovery is "not only a challenge to Ukraine but also to humanity as a whole."

At the same time, however, he said that the country will continue to promote its nuclear power generation policy by ensuring safety, saying it is necessary for a country lacking energy resources.

The president, referring to the accident as an occurrence that people should not forget, like the Holocaust, said that a large part of the national budget has been allocated to support victims of the disaster and that it is "too heavy a burden for one country alone to shoulder."

On an ongoing plan to construct a new coffin -- funded by several industrial economies including Japan -- to cover the burned-out remains of the reactor that caused the disaster, the president reiterated that it will be completed in 2010. The remains are currently covered by a concrete shelter but it is becoming obsolete.

Referring to his visit to Hiroshima last July, the Japanese city that was atom-bombed by the United States in 1945, Yushchenko said that Japanese people would best understand the sufferings of the Ukrainians and expressed his gratitude for the support received from the Japanese government and nongovernmental organizations.

He also expressed hope of further support from Japan in addressing a growing number of cancer patients and other medical problems as well as fighting radioactive contamination.

On April 26, 1986, the Chernobyl nuclear power plant's No. 4 reactor in the then Soviet Union exploded while on a test run, unleashing radioactive contamination that spread across what are now Belarus, Russia and Ukraine.

About 5 million people continue to live in contaminated areas.

Source: Kyodo News