Chernobyl will finally be closed permanently

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(June 9, 2000) Ukraine President Leonid Kuchma announced on June 5 that the Chernobyl nuclear power station will permanently be closed on December 15, 2000. On that date, the remaining operating Chernobyl-3 reactor will stop producing electricity.

(531.5178) WISE Amsterdam - Finally, an official promise has been made to close the dangerous station, after years of political pressure to do so. In connection with the announced closure, done at a meeting in Kiev with US President Bill Clinton, the US pledged US$78 million for the Chernobyl Shelter Fund, which is intended to help pay for repairs on the leaking sarcophagus around the destroyed Chernobyl-4 reactor. Until now, U$400 million has already been raised internationally to build a new sarcophagus over the destroyed unit. It is expected that there is still need for an extra US$350 million to complete this project. The US$78 million is on top of US$200 million the US has already provided in Chernobyl assistance.

Clinton further announced a US$2-million allocation from the US Department of Energy for a nuclear safety program and a new program called a "business incubator for the Chernobyl region" to help create new economic opportunities for people in that region.

Although almost all parties have agreed in the past to close the Chernobyl nuclear power station whose safety came under heavy discussion after the 1986 disaster with unit 4, it took a long time until the Ukraine government fixed a date to do so.

On February 17, 1990, when the Ukraine was still part of the former Soviet Union, the majority in the Ukrainian parliament requested Moscow to close the Chernobyl station before 1995. Due to a fire in reactor 2 in 1991, the parliament then decided to close within two years the other units (1 and 3). During a November 1991 meeting, the then German Minister of Environment Klaus Toepfer and Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk both called for international support in making a program to close Chernobyl, and to give financial aid to Middle and Eastern Europe. However, due to an economic crisis, the Ukraine in 1993 decided to keep Chernobyl running and suspended a moratorium on the building of new reactors.

In 1995, the Ukraine and the countries of the Group of Seven (G7) signed a Memorandum of Understanding under which Western countries promised financial aid worth some US$2.5 billion for the closure of Chernobyl and replacing it with other non-nuclear means of producing electricity in the Ukraine. The completion of the unfinished Khmelnitsky-2 and Rovno-4 (also called the K2/R4 project) was proposed as part of the deal. Ukraine would then be prepared to close the operating Chernobyl station by the year 2000. No final decisions have yet been taken on the funding of the K2/R4 project.

The fact that K2/R4 was not even mentioned during the whole Kuchma-Clinton summit is remarkable. Until now, the Ukraine government considers the funding of the K2/R4 project a precondition for the closure of Chernobyl. This might be a sign that the anti-K2/R4 campaign has won, considering that the meeting with Clinton would actually have been the best (and almost the last) opportunity for Kuchma to call on the G7 to finance the K2/R4 reactors.


  • Financial Times, 5 June 2000
  • The Guardian, 6 June 2000

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