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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Ukraine Urges Action On Aging Chernobyl

SLAVUTYCH, Ukraine -- Crucial safety measures are still lacking at the leaking and crumbling site of the catastrophic 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident and remedial action is urgently needed, a Ukrainian official said.

National energy officials have also refused to shut down reactor No. 3, the only operational reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, for repairs, saying they need its power for the winter, the UNIAN news agency reported Saturday.

The National Electricity Dispatching Center rejected Chernobyl authorities' request to shut down the reactor until another reactor at Ukraine's other nuclear power plant is restarted to offset the closure, the agency said.

The refusal followed more than a month of disagreement between Ukrainian nuclear safety authorities and energy officials over whether to stop the troubled reactor.

Meanwhile, Valentin Kupny, head of the group responsible for the concrete sarcophagus hastily placed over Chernobyl's reactor No. 4 after it exploded in the world's worst nuclear accident, said that basic infrastructure was not at an adequate standard. This included health and safety centers, and security checks to make sure nothing dangerous was stolen from the site, he said.

Kupny said on television in an interview at a biennial conference on the state of the reactor's crumbling cover that "organizational issues" were delaying the start of urgently needed work.

"We have the money, and the delay is in our organization of the work," he said. "We have $200 million, and what we're doing is drawing up plans for work next year for around $100 million."

Ukraine's Nuclear Regulation Administration ordered Chernobyl officials earlier this month to stop the third reactor as of Dec. 1 after an inspection showed that some safety equipment was close to the end of its operational life.

But the order was protested by the Energy Ministry, which said the reactor was needed to ensure enough electricity during the fall and winter.

Energy Minister Oleksiy Sheberstov said that his ministry would be forced to cut off electricity in entire regions if even one nuclear reactor is stopped.

Deputy Energy Minister Hennadiy Yaroslavtsev said Saturday the shutdown of the Chernobyl reactor would be possible only after a reactor at the Yuzhnaya nuclear power plant is restarted, UNIAN reported.

He said that operators at Yuzhnaya are currently preparing to restart the reactor. It has been idle for more than a month because of lack of money to import new safety equipment for it.

Western nations have demanded the shutdown of the Chernobyl reactor amid growing worries over its safety, and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development has agreed to grant $118 million for upgrading it.

The Chernobyl explosion, which spewed a poisonous cloud of radioactive dust over much of Ukraine, Russia, Belarus and parts of western Europe, killed 31 people and affected thousands more.

Specialists say the structure covering the site is leaky and unstable. They are also concerned about growing amounts of radioactive dust within the structure which could escape if part of it actually collapsed.