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Chernobyl clean-up faces 10-year delay

News

THIRTY MILLION Ukrainian lives will continue to be threatened for more than a decade because of delays in decommissioning Chernobyl's nuclear power plant, consultants claimed this week.

The dire warning was the conclusion of a report by Large & Associates director John Large. The report was produced for Greenpeace and delivered on Tuesday at a conference in Ukraine marking the 20-year anniversary of the disaster.

A highly radioactive cooling water lagoon will continue to leak its contents into the Dnieper Basin and contaminate the water supply of downstream Kiev until the power station's disused reactors are emptied of fuel. The lagoon became radioactive following the explosion in reactor 4. Waste from the disaster was dumped into the water to improve the safety of the site. As a result, radiation was quickly found in Kiev's drinking water.

But the project to empty the reactors is running eight years late and is still five years from completion. Once complete, it will take three to eight years to empty the lagoon.

Large is particularly concerned that a lack of maintenance could lead to the collapse of embankments holding back the lagoon. Maintenance of the embankments costs the cashstrapped Ukrainian government E630,000 (£440,000) a year.

'There is always risk of a collapse of a section of retaining embankment and the release of a surge of highly contaminated sediment, ' says the report.

The lagoon cannot be drained, because cooling water is needed on site so long as fuel remains in the disused reactors.

Framatome of France is building a spent fuel store so fuel rods that in reactors 1 and 3 can be removed.

But Large's report lists several problems on the project, including the installation of the wrong gauge railway, foundation subsidence and faulty concrete.

Large's report claims that Framatome blamed 'misinformation' from the Ukranians.

Framatome was unavailable for comment.

Jon Young (see feature p18) Infoplus Access the report via www. nceplus. co. uk

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