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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

West Pledges $715M for Chernobyl

BERLIN -- Work to rebuild the leaky cement shell covering a ruined nuclear reactor at Chernobyl can begin now that Western nations have pledged to cover almost the entire estimated cost of $768 million, officials said Wednesday.

"We can get started quite soon, and we can put all our efforts into it," said German Environment Minister J?rgen Trittin at the end of a conference of more than 40 donor nations in Berlin.

Chernobyl was the site of the world's worst nuclear accident when a reactor exploded and caught fire in April 1986, sending radiation over much of Europe.

Experts say a new cover over the ruined reactor f instead of the hastily constructed and leaky Soviet "sarcophagus" f is needed to prevent new releases of radiation. But Ukraine has pushed for more outside help to pay for the work.

Wednesday's donor conference, following on one in New York in 1997, raised additional pledges of 335.6 million euros ($319 million) from the Group of Seven leading industrial nations and the European Union, Trittin said, bringing the total to $715 million.

"There were expectations and the expectations have been surpassed," Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko said at a news conference with his German hosts.