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International Leaders Attend Nuclear Safety Conference

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, left, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, center, and President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso during the Chernobyl Pledging Conference in Kiev, Ukraine, April 19, 2011

Ukraine is hosting a two-day conference on safety for nuclear power plants.

The governments of Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus have organized the sessions. It comes just a week before the 25-year anniversary of the explosion at Ukraine's Soviet-era Chernobyl nuclear plant.

The blast crippled the reactor and caused a fire that sent out plumes of radioactive smoke across Europe. Some 200,000 people living near the plant were evacuated.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is attending the conference in Ukraine's capital city, Kyiv, along with Yukiya Amano, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Other Chernobyl-related events are planned for later this week.

On Tuesday, international leaders fell short of a $1.1 billion goal at a donor’s conference in Kyiv to help complete a new shelter for the damaged Chernobyl reactor, to replace a container that has outlasted its service life. The cover serves to keep radiation from leaking out of the ruined reactor.


The event raised over $785 million to help complete the construction of a long-term shelter over the reactor. The new cover will slide over the top of the damaged reactor and is expected to seal it until the end of the century.

After the new shelter is in place, the reactor can be disassembled. Some of the money raised will be used to build a storage facility for nuclear waste from Chernobyl.

Anxiety about nuclear safety is at a high, as Japan struggles to bring radiation emissions under control at its Fukushima nuclear plant. The plant was badly damaged by last month's devastating earthquake and tsunami in the Japanese northeast.