Ukraine To Reconstruct 'Sarcophagus' Around Chernobyl Reactor

KIEV, Ukraine -- A quarter of a century after the world's worst nuclear disaster at Chernobyl, Ukraine has received enough pledges to begin the long-awaited construction of a new shelter around the ruins of the reactor.

The current makeshift shelter is leaking radiation.

More than 25 years after the Chernobyl nuclear reactor explosion, Ukraine's President Viktor Yanukovych has announced that the government has received sufficient donations to begin constructing a new "sarcophagus" around the contaminated site.

The permanent shelter will be designed to secure the ruins of the power station, with 110-meter-high (360 feet) walls to contain the reactor, as well as a new storage facility for spent fuel. The containment shell will replace a makeshift shelter that has begun to leak radiation.

"For a long time, Ukraine was alone with this calamity, but happily we are not alone now," Yanukovych said in a statement.

Work on the 740 million euro project ($1.03 million) is due to begin later this year and should be completed by 2015, according to the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry in the capital, Kiev.

A spokesman for the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) said international investors had donated 670 million euros so far.

The pledges had increased following the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan in March, the only other accident to be classed as level seven on the international scale, along with Chernobyl.

Russia alone donated 45 million euros to the Ukrainian cause.

World's worst nuclear accident

The no. 4 nuclear reactor at Chernobyl exploded on April 26, 1986 and caught fire.

The blast sent radiation across large parts of Europe, contaminating the then Soviet countries of Ukraine, Belarus and Russia.

At the time, the Soviet Union held back news of the full scale of the Chernobyl accident for several days.

Tens of thousands of inhabitants were evacuated from Prypyat, the town closest to the site, never to return.

A 30 kilometer (19 mile) exclusion zone is still in place around the town.

A total of 31 people died immediately and many more died later of radiation-related sicknesses such as cancer, many of them in what is today Belarus.

Source: Deutsche Welle