Ukraine marks 29 years since Chernobyl disaster
Ukrainians on Sunday marked 29 years since the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, placing wreaths and candles near the plant where work to lay a new seal over the reactor site has been delayed.
The explosion of reactor number four on April 26, 1986, spewed poisonous radiation over large parts of Europe, particularly Ukraine, Belarus and Russia.
At 1:23 a.m. (2223 GMT Saturday), the exact time of the explosion, hundreds of people placed flowers and candles in the dark at the foot of a monument in Slavutych, a town 50 kilometers (30 miles) from the plant.
Slavutych was built to rehouse Chernobyl workers who had lived near the plant and were forced to move further away after the disaster.
At the site of the plant itself, around 100 kilometers from Kiev, Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko laid a wreath at a monument to the victims.
The human toll of the disaster is still disputed.
United Nations experts officially recognized 31 deaths among plant workers and firefighters directly linked to the blast.
But environmental group Greenpeace has suggested there would be around 100,000 additional cancer deaths caused by the disaster.
The Soviet authorities of the time dispatched hundreds of thousands of people to put out the fire and clean the site, without proper protection.
They hastily laid over the reactor site a concrete cover dubbed “the sarcophagus,” which is now cracking and must be replaced.
A spokesperson for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in statement: “We stand in solidarity with the millions who have been traumatized by lingering fears about their health and livelihoods.”
The U.N. Action Plan on Chernobyl will come to an end on Dec. 31 and so U.N. officials have initiated a series of consultations “to define the vision for post-2016 international cooperation,” it added.
Ban called for “a forward-looking strategy designed to further help the recovery of the affected areas and to work together for greater nuclear safety worldwide.”
Poroshenko on Sunday inspected ongoing work on a new 20,000-tonne steel cover — a project estimated to cost more than two billion euros ( US$2.2 billion; NT$66.38 billion).
It is financed by international donations managed by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).
The structure will contain tech- nology that will act beneath the cover to decontaminate the area once the steel layer is in place. Officials say the new cover will last for 100 years.
The work is being done by Novarka, a joint venture by French companies Vinci and Bouygues.
Poroshenko said the new cover would “protect forever” against radiation from the site.
The work had been scheduled for completion by the end of this year but the EBRD said last year technical problems would delay until late 2017.
1. A relative of a Chernobyl victim places a photo near the monument erected in memory of the victims of the Chernobyl explosion in Ukraine’s capital Kiev, Sunday, April 26. 2. An orthodox priest blesses those who died after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, during a ceremony at the memorial to Chernobyl firefighters in the city of Slavutich, Ukraine, Sunday. 3.Ukrainians holds candles to commemorate those who died after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, during a ceremony at the memorial to Chernobyl firefighters in Slavutich, Sunday.