Soviet Reactors

The West is ready to fund safety repairs for hazardous nuclear reactors of Soviet design, but at levels much lower than anticipated. Following objections by the U.S. and Japan at the Munich economic summit, a multinational kitty will be set up, but it will be funded at far less than the $700 million initially hoped for. Now, the Europeans, who are most worried about another Chernobyl disaster, will have to finance well over half the program. The total could be reached only if Western countries help fund contracts their engineering companies win for reactor repairs.

The decision casts a pall over a longer-term plan to lay out $10 billion to replace faulty reactors in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. That plan ran into criticism at the economic summit because it could perpetuate supplies of subsidized energy to woefully inefficient former Soviet industries. In any event, the reactor decision signals that the West will keep tight controls on any monetary aid it sends to the former East bloc.