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Chornobyl Report
             A biweekly update of Chornobyl support activities for July 29, 1998

Vice President gets first-hand look at Chornobyl and Pripyat

Arriving at Chornobyl by U.S. military helicopter, Vice President Gore gets a close look at the devastation at the Unit 4 site
After U.S. Vice President Al Gore visited Chornobyl for the first time last week, he told an audience of Ukrainian dignitaries at the Chornobyl Museum in Kyiv that perhaps he should have been better prepared for the emotional impact. "What happened here in Chornobyl is capable of transforming not only those who endured the tragedy itself but all of us--if we learn the lesson that we are all connected," said Gore, the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit the site of the world's worst nuclear accident.

Upon arrival in Ukraine, Gore traveled from Kyiv to Chornobyl by helicopter, flying over the ring of barbed wire marking a 20-mile exclusion zone around the plant. During the visit, Gore and Ukraine President Leonid Kuchma, who co-chair a bilateral cooperation commission, agreed to establish a joint radioecology laboratory in the exclusion zone to study radiation effects on the environment.

Andrei Glukhov (left) returns to his hometown of Pripyat for a tour with Vice President Gore
At Chornobyl, Gore visited the operational Unit 3 and saw first-hand the recently repaired ventilation stack between Unit 3 and the destroyed Unit 4 reactor. The United States contributed $1 million toward repairing the stack, which is still used by Unit 3, to its original design strength.

During the visit, Gore reiterated the United States' position on the continued operation of Unit 3. "It's imperative for the safety of the Ukrainian people, for the safety of Europe, for the well-being of the world, for the remaining reactor to be shut down as soon as it is feasible to do so."

Ukraine has pledged to shut down Chornobyl's only operating reactor by the year 2000 in return for compensation for lost generating capacity. At a joint news conference with Kuchma on July 22, Gore said the United States "will be able to help [Ukraine] replace that power." Kuchma confirmed that Ukraine has decided to close the plant but remained noncommittal about the date.

Standing in what once was Pripyat's Central Square, Vice President Gore (second from right) listens as Andrei Glukhov shares his experiences following the 1986 accident
Gore also witnessed the deteriorating condition of the Shelter that encloses the Unit 4 ruins. The United States has spearheaded efforts to raise the estimated $760 million needed to renovate the Shelter while protecting workers and the environment. Roughly $390 million has been pledged to date, with $300 million committed from G-7 nations.

A visit to the abandoned town of Pripyat was the most moving event for the vice president. He was escorted by Andrei Glukhov, a Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) employee who worked at Chornobyl and lived in Pripyat with his family at the time of the accident. Gore was touched by the personal stories of Glukhov and others whose lives were so affected by the tragedy of Chornobyl.

Final vent stack milestone complete

Repairs to the damaged ventilation stack between Chornobyl Unit 3 and the Shelter over the destroyed Unit 4 have been verified by PNNL to be complete. Payment of $666,000 for completion of the final milestone of this project was authorized July 26, following resolution of final questions which arose during the project completion verification walkdown of the work site. Total cost of this project was $2.25 million, paid jointly by the United States ($1 million), Canada ($800,000), and Ukraine ($450,000).

A question was raised regarding repairs to correct damage due to freezing of water that had accumulated inside tubular bracing elements because the repair contract did not include a provision for drain holes or identification and sealing of water entry points. Ukrenergobud, the Ukrainian contractor who performed the repairs, has warranted the work for one year, and a joint inspection with Shelter personnel will be performed next spring. Subsequently, the Shelter management group will have responsibility to inspect the stack annually and repair any damage identified.

Shelter workers learn proper use of equipment

The United States continues to provide a range of industrial safety equipment to help protect Ukrainians working in hazardous conditions at the Chornobyl Shelter. Shipments of hard hats, respirators, ladders, fall-protection devices, and emergency communication and surveillance equipment, have cleared Ukrainian customs and are in use at the Shelter. Since May 1997, the Shelter has received about 10 shipments of U.S.-supplied industrial safety equipment. Three additional shipments are pending customs clearance.

Training on how to use certain industrial safety equipment is necessary to ensure its proper use. Most recently, five Shelter workers received training on portable radio programming that will assist with communications between various areas of the Shelter. Training also has been provided on concrete saw and drilling equipment (both operation and maintenance) and on operation of air compressors for pneumatic tools.

PMU works through NRA-related issues

Members of the Chornobyl Shelter Project Management Unit (PMU) and Ukraine's Nuclear Regulatory Administration (NRA) are nearing agreement on the regulator's involvement in Shelter Improvement Plan (SIP) activities. The PMU is working with the NRA to reach consensus on details of the regulatory approach outlined in the SIP and possible modifications being sought by the NRA. None of the various issues being addressed is believed to be insurmountable.

It is becoming increasingly apparent that the NRA is experiencing extreme financial difficulties. Consequently, the regulator has lost numerous key staff members, including persons formerly assigned to the NRA Shelter Division. With only one experienced staff person remaining in this division, PMU officials are hoping that a grant from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) for technical support may provide some of the regulatory assistance needed. Since NRA involvement is critical to timely progress on the SIP, the funding issue at NRA requires early attention from EBRD and the donor nations. Assistance with NRA funding is not provided for in the SIP.

The kickoff for work to begin on the first early biddable contract, Package A, occurred last week under the direction of Morrison-Knudsen. Other team members include British Nuclear Fuel Limited, Ukraine's Interdisciplinary Scientific and Technical Center (ISTC), the Ukraine Academy for Engineering Services (NIISK), and Kyiv Power Engineering Design Institute (KIEP).

Contractor negotiations for early biddable Package B concluded last week, with announcement of that contract award for operations and monitoring services expected soon. Likewise, contract resolution for Package C, emergency services, should occur this week. Contract resolution for Package D, fuel-containing material management, is anticipated for early August.

Agreement has been reached between the PMU and Chornobyl nuclear power plant (NPP) officials to renovate the rear wing of the building that houses the Slavutych Laboratory for International Research and Technology for use by PMU Consultant staff members and contractors. Renovations are expected to take about three months.

Workers stage equipment in preparation for construction activities at the heat plant site.

Plans are to complete the partially constructed heat plant to supply heat needed to maintain safety systems at Chornobyl nuclear power plant when shutdown and deactivation activities begin about the year 2000. Chornobyl currently relies on an aging heat plant and heat generated by operation of Unit 3.

News items and comments can be directed to INSP Communications, (509) 372-6015, or e-mail

See also Chornobyl Initiatives/General Information on Chornobyl and the Biweekly Report Archive.


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