Donor nations have pledged about $785 million to clean up the Chernobyl nuclear disaster site at a conference in Kiev held as the 25th anniversary of the disaster approaches.
This is what we have been able to raise through joint efforts — and we consider this figure preliminary," Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych said Tuesday in Kiev, Reuters reported. The conference aim was to raise $1 billion.
The money is being sought to complete construction of a high-tech cover for the nuclear reactor that exploded Apr. 26, 1986, and to build a facility to store spent nuclear fuel waste from the plant's three other decommissioned reactors, the Associated Press reported.
The cover would take the form of a giant shelter that would slide on rails over the damaged reactor and its concrete cover, known as the sarcophagus, recently shored up after it became unstable, according to Agence France-Presse.
French Prime Minister Francois Fillon, who co-chairs this meeting as the French president of the G8, said the Fukushima accident revived memories of Chernobyl.
"More than ever our responsibility is to join together our efforts to limit the consequences of such disasters and to prepare for the future," he said.
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso pledged $156 million from the European Union for the shelter. "More than 40 countries and international organizations are represented here today in a powerful show of unity by the international community around the globe in transforming Chernobyl into a secure and environmentally safe site," he said.
"Recent events in Fukushima, Japan, have also reminded us of the danger this issue may represent," Barroso said. "We need today to reaffirm our solidarity"
Yanukovych, in his opening speech, said: "The catastrophe at Chernobyl power station left a deep wound that Ukraine will need to live with for many years ahead. We thank the international community for not leaving Ukraine alone with this problem."
Several countries that had been major donors to the project in previous years did not announce pledges Tuesday, citing their own economic difficulties or impending national elections.
The Ukrainian government had pledged $41 million, Yanukovych said, adding that: "The catastrophe has affected millions of people, thousands died and tens of thousands continue to suffer."