MOSCOW -- The Soviet Union has paid $1.12 billion in compensation to victims of the disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, which no longer poses a danger to the environment, the Communist Party Central Committee said Saturday.
The Central Committee in a statement carried by the Tass news agency said it was satisfied with the construction of the concrete tomb round the damaged nuclear reactor. The reactor exploded April 26 sending a radioactive cloud floating across the western Soviet Union and much of Europe.
The Committee said $1.12 billion has been paid out in compensation to 116,000people evacuated from the Chernobyl area in the Ukraine about 600 miles southwest of Moscow.
It said the figure did not include the construction of housing and other facilities for the evacuees.
Of the funds paid in compensation, a total of $728 million were raised through voluntary private contributions to a special government relief fund set up after the disaster.
The Committee in its review of the disaster said 237 people had been hospitalized with radiation sickness and now 'most of those affected' have been released from hospital and returned to work.
The Committee said 28 of those hospitalized had died. The statement did not account for three other fatalities included in the official death toll of 31 that was announced by Soviet officials in August.
'People are being paid compensation for the inflicted damage,' the Committee said. 'An aggregate sum channeled for this purpose amounts to some $1.12 billion. Apart from that considerable resources were spent on the construction of apartment houses and social and cultural facilities.
'The destroyed reactor has ceased to be a source of radioactive contamination of the environment,' the Committee said.
Two other nuclear reactors at the four-reactor site that were not damaged physically but contaiminated by radiation have been restarted, the statement said.
The Committee said 390,000 cubic yards of concrete and 6,000 tons of steel were used to build the tomb around Reactor No. 4.
For those evacuated, 12,000 houses have been built outside the contaminated zone that is officially designated within a 19-mile radius of the power station. The statement said 200 schools, hospitals and shops have also been constructed.
Within the zone, 60,000 private homes in 500 villages, settlements and towns have been decontaminated by army engineers.
Tens of thosands of tons of radioactive topsoil were removed from the area. The Central Committee said tests have shown that drinking water in the area is safe.
In previous statements the government said the total expected economic losses from the disaster would be more than $2.8 billion. In its statement the Central Committee said 'necessary measures' are under way in the nuclear power industry to increase safety, including a review of the skill of Soviet nuclear technicians.
The official state report said the Chernobyl accident was caused by technicians who committed a series of errors while conducting an unauthorized cooling experiment. During the experiment, the engineers turned off the plant's automatic shutdown mechanisms.
The Central Committee reaffirmed the Soviet Union's commitment to a global early warning system for future nuclear disasters and said the aftermath of the Chernobyl disaster showed that nuclear war would mean the end of all mankind.