The international community has pledged a further € 550 million towards the total € 1,5 billion programme to transform the site of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the Ukraine into an environmentally safe state.

The construction of a new confinement shelter over the site is the largest single project under the shelter implementation programme, taking up about two-thirds of the total cost. A 50/50 joint venture between French contractors Vinci and Bouygues, known as Novarka, is constructing the new shield.

The nuclear disaster at Chernobyl happened on 26 April, 1986, and an initial confinement shelter - known as the sarcophagus - that was built over the site is in need of an upgrade.

Novarka was awarded the Chernobyl containment contract in 2007 and the design of the new shield has been completed and preparatory work on the site has begun. The project, which is being performed on behalf of state-owned Ukrainian company ChNPP, involves constructing an arch consisting of an 18000 tonne metal framework spanning the existing sarcophagus.

The 105 m high, 150 m long shelter is being assembled to the west of the site, some distance from the damaged reactor. It will then be slid into place over the existing sarcophagus in order to prevent nuclear material from escaping. Construction is scheduled for completion in 2015.

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is managing the Chernobyl Shelter Fund. The international community has supported Ukraine in the efforts to overcome the legacy of the Chernobyl accident since the 1990s. The Chernobyl Shelter Fund showed a funding gap of € 600 million at the start of April, and international donors pledged the new funds during a conference in Kiev on 19 April.

EBRD President Thomas Mirow said, "While we understand that this is a formidable task without a precedent, I expect all relevant parties to do their utmost to bring this vitally important project to a successful conclusion. The donor community calls upon the companies involved in this undertaking to assume their responsibility and co-operate in the most efficient way."

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