President Yushchenko's new government must still rely on foreign aid to cover the high costs of radiation cleanup and a second protective shell, "Los Angeles Times" reports.

Today, radiation levels in the exclusion zone of Chernobyl - a radius of nearly 20 miles from the plant - vary wildly, sometimes zooms up to 100 times normal.

With the inauguration last month of President Viktor Yushchenko, a pro-Western former opposition leader, new authorities have taken power in Ukraine who enjoy enormous American and European goodwill. That appears to ensure a continuation of outside help to deal with the problem.

"European governments and the major donors : will certainly be sympathetic to the new government," said Vince Novak, director of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development's nuclear safety department to the correspondent of LA times. "So at least there won't be any political obstacles there."Twenty-eight donor countries, including the United States, have contributed $618 million to the cleanup effort. But a plan to create a new "sarcophagus" to entomb the doomed reactor will cost hundreds of millions more.

The greatest worry today is that the original sarcophagus, hastily built in 1986 to contain the radioactive debris of Chernobyl's No. 4 reactor, could collapse in a fresh cloud of radioactive dust should a moderate earthquake strike, Kulishenko said. Urgent work is underway to reinforce this leaky and unstable concrete-and-steel structure, parts of which rest on the damaged walls of the original power plant, he said.

Plans are moving forward to add a second shelter around the old one. The "Shelter 2" is a huge 19,800-ton steel arch designed to be assembled nearby, and then slid into place on rails to minimize workers' radiation exposure. The sarcophagus is designed to last at least 100 years, providing improved conditions for further stabilization work and eventual cleanup of radioactive debris isolated inside.


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