EU eyes environment clean-up scheme in north Europe
BRUSSELS - The European Union said last week it expected to launch a 1.8 billion euro programme next week to help clean the environment in northern Europe, focusing on the threats posed by nuclear waste in Russia.
The European Commission, the EU\'s executive body, said the long-awaited scheme would start if an international donors\' conference in Brussels next Tuesday grants it, as expected, at least 100 million euros in initial funds.
\"The problems of environmental degradation and particularly those of nuclear waste are matters of international concern. Future generations will not forgive us if we fail to act now,\" said EU External Relations Commissioner Chris Patten. The Commission will chair the donors\' conference along with Russia and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development
\"Our minimum target is 100 million euros. But the donors\' pledges can be much higher,\" said Alistair MacDonald, a senior official at the Commission\'s Eastern Europe directorate.
The pledged funds will co-finance 1.8 billion euros worth of long-term loans from international financial institutions for the most urgent projects needed to reduce water and air pollution in the Baltic and Barents Sea regions.
Out of this sum, about 500 million euros is to be spent on dealing with dangerous nuclear waste in northwestern Russia, which is mainly the legacy of the Cold War, when the Soviet Union produced hundreds of nuclear submarines.
The vessels are now being decommissioned, with many just rusting away in various bases on the Barents Sea, and the spent radioactive material is stored in hazardous conditions.
\"The Kola peninsula contains the world\'s largest repository of spent nuclear fuel. Its storage conditions are unacceptable,\" said Thomas Maier of the EBRD\'s nuclear department.
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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