Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.N.'s Annan Hails Chernobyl Closing

UNITED NATIONS - U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Tuesday hailed Ukraine's decision to shut down its Chernobyl nuclear power plant, site of the world's worst atomic disaster, as "an important step towards achieving global nuclear safety."

He paid tribute to "all parties that have worked towards the decommissioning of the plant and hopes that continued support will be provided to help Ukraine alleviate the economic and social problems stemming from the plant closure," U.N. spokeswoman Marie Okabe said.

The plant, which is located 120 km north of Kiev and is to be shut down on Friday, was the site of the world's worst civil nuclear disaster when one of its reactors exploded in 1986, sending deadly radioactive dust over Russia, neighboring Belarus and much of Europe.

It has since been dogged by numerous minor accidents and temporary shutdowns.

Ukraine had long resisted switching off Chernobyl, which still provides 5 percent of all its electricity, pressing the West for loans to help it decommission the plant and complete replacement reactors.

But after years of talks with Western countries, President Leonid Kuchma promised in June to close Chernobyl on Dec. 15 and never turn it back on.

The secretary-general was "deeply concerned over the long-term impact of the accident" and urged member states to generously contribute to rehabilitation projects, Okabe said.