The phase of decommissioning Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine whose one reactor explosion was the worst man-caused disaster will be completed in 2013 after the removal of nuclear fuel from three other reactors.
Speaking at a news conference Monday on the occasion of the 24th anniversary of the worst ecological disaster, the Ukrainian Embassy Trade and Economic Minister Dr. Yaroslav Voitka, however, said the complete decommissioning of the entire nuclear power plant and transforming the facility into an ecologically safe system will take about 70 years.
The accident happened on April 26, 1986, when one of the four reactors exploded sending tonnes of radioactive material into the air. Some of these were carried around the world, but 70 per cent of the radioactive substances blew north over the population of Belarus, eastern Europe.
Though only 50 deaths were reported directly, but as a result of the accident more than 145 thousand square kilometres in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia were contaminated, over five million people were affected and about five thousand settlements were contaminated with radioactive sediments. Some 2218 towns and cities with a population of approximately 2.4 million in Ukraine alone were affected.
According to Dr. Voitko, as of April 2010, over 2.3 million people in Ukraine had the status of the victims of Chernobyl disaster with children being more than half a million of them.
He said over the past 12 years, the total number of affected citizens declined by 26 per cent while the number of persons classified as disabled increased by 80 percent.
Furthermore, he added, according to the generalised data of Ukrainian Health Ministry, 504,117 persons (both adults and children) died due to long term affects of the radiation while under medical supervision between 1987 and 2004.
Dr.Voitka said though mortality rate of affected children has gradually declined, but among middle and older ages it has gone up.
The economic loss to Ukraine has been estimated at US $ 1385 million.
He said Ukraine has 10 nuclear power plants which meet 40 per cent of countrys energy need while two more are under construction. He said the international donors have pledged assistance towards Shelter Fund for the safe storage of nuclear waste. Out of the initial cost estimated at US $ 768 million, 90 per cent of this amount has been already collected but according to estimates by international experts, the project require a further approximately US $ 1400 million to complete.
Tatiana Pereverzeva Birch, head of the Chernobyl Relief Foundation in the UK, explained the measures to raise funds for the treatment of children affected by the fallout of radioactive material. In southern Belarus thyroid cancer in children has increased by more than 100 times, due to the large amounts of radioactive iodine they have ingested, and there have been rises in many other types of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, respiratory problems, ailments of the digestive system and birth defects.
She expressed gratitude to Cuba and said it was the only country that offered free treatment to the children that benefited some 20,000 Ukrainian children. She also lauded efforts of the British philanthropists in raising funds and treatment of children in the UK.