- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 26, 2011

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) | Russian President Dmitry Medvedev called on the international community to work out unified guidelines to prevent accidents such as the Chernobyl disaster 25 years ago while continuing to develop nuclear energy.

Mr. Medvedev and his Ukrainian counterpart, Viktor Yanukovych, spoke at a memorial ceremony outside Chernobyl’s ravaged nuclear reactor that exploded April 26, 1986. It spewed a cloud of radioactive fallout over much of Europe and forced hundreds of thousands from their homes in the most heavily hit areas in Ukraine, Belarus and western Russia.

“It’s of utmost importance that we understand what kind of force humankind is dealing with so that our solutions … meet the challenges of nuclear energy,” Mr. Medvedev said.

Mr. Medvedev and Mr. Yanukovych took part in a memorial service led by Orthodox Patriarch Kirill near the Chernobyl plant, laid the first stone of a monument to Chernobyl cleanup workers and laid bouquets of red roses at another monument to Chernobyl victims.

“The consequences of the accident have been huge, but if it hadn’t been for the work of the ‘liquidators,’ the work of the firefighters, the rescuers and doctors, these consequences would have been global. We must remember that,” Mr. Medvedev said.

Mr. Yanukovych stressed that nuclear accidents such as Chernobyl and the explosion at Japan’s Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant affect the whole planet and renewed calls for money to build a new, safer shelter over the damaged reactor.

Ukraine still needs to raise some $300 million to cover up the plant, which remains a no-go zone a quarter century after the disaster.

The Chernobyl explosion released about 400 times more radiation than the U.S. atomic bomb dropped over Hiroshima, Japan. Hundreds of thousands were sickened and once-pristine forests and farmland still remain contaminated.

The U.N.’s World Health Organization said at a conference in Kiev last week that among the 600,000 people most heavily exposed to the radiation, 4,000 more cancer deaths than average are expected to be found eventually.