NEARLY A DECADE AFTER AN explosion ripped the roof off the Chornobyl nuclear power plant's now-notorious fourth reactor and spewed a cloud of radiation across Europe, the fate of the facility is still being debated by Ukrainian and Western leaders. Since Ukraine gained independence in 1991, Western powers - led by the Group of Seven and the European Union - have pressured Kiev to shut the plant down. Questions about the safety of the still operating plant motivate their campaign. The ruined reactor remains encased in a cracking concrete-and-steel tomb that was haphazardly constructed by the Soviet regime immediately following the explosion on 26 April 1986. That concrete sarcophagus contains an estimated 400 kilograms of plutonium waste and more than 100 tons of nuclear fuel, as well as a large amount of contaminated debris.1

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