Nuke news

UKRAINE, in a bid to develop its own nuclear fuel industry, is going all out to attract foreign investment worth about US $1 billion for a 15-year project. At present, the former Soviet republic has to depend solely on fuel imports from Russia. However, the government's plans to close down Chernobyl by AD 2000 could throw a spanner in the works. Ukraine has already asked the West for US $4 billion for closing the plant whose 4th reactor exploded in 1986, resulting in several deaths and major environmental damage; raising the additional finance at this time could be difficult.

In March, the government issued a resolution instructing the local authorities and key ministries to draw up a programme -- which includes the costruction of a rehabilitation centre and measures for land decontamination -- to compensate the people living in areas contaminated by radionuclides. Many areas have radioactive emissions of 120 microroentgens per hour, 10 times more than normal levels. But last winter's fuel shortages have relegated environmental concerns to the background. Ukraine's nuclear power plants have been hounded by severe financial troubles. The government says that it cannot guarantee the safe operation of the plants in face of shortages of finance and largescale loss of qualified personnel who are leaving the industry because of unpaid and low wages.