Donors agree aid to clean nuclear waste in Russia
BRUSSELS - International donors agreed yesterday to launch a 1.8 billion euro ($1.78 billion) programme to help clean up the environment in and around northern Russia, which faces a big threat from nuclear waste.
A one-day conference chaired by the European Union and Russia announced initial funds totalling 110 million euros for the most urgent projects needed to reduce water and air pollution in the Baltic and Barents Sea regions.
The European Commission, the EU\'s executive body, pledged 50 million euros. Six countries - Russia, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden - offered 10 million euros each.
\"A number of other countries indicated that they may soon be able to come forward with additional contributions,\" the organisers said in a statement.
The start-up funds are to co-finance 1.8 billion euros worth of loans from international financial institutions such as the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development for more than a dozen clean-up projects already identified.
\"Future generations will not understand if we do not act now to tackle the legacy of environmental degradation, and above all the legacy of dangerous nuclear material left in northern Europe,\" said EU External Relations Commissioner Chris Patten.
He said about 500 million euros is to be spent on tackling dangerous nuclear waste in northwestern Russia, which is mainly the legacy of the Cold War when the Soviet Union built hundreds of nuclear submarines.
The vessels are now being decommissioned, with many just rusting away in bases on the Barents Sea, and the spent radioactive material is stored in hazardous conditions.
\"We must make sure that what is hazard today does not become a disaster tomorrow. There are hundreds of nuclear submarines and reactors to be dismantled and vast quantities of radioactive waste to take care of,\" Patten said.
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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