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Lancaster University Helps New 'Chernobyl' Town Go Online

Story supplied by LU Press Office

People outside Slavutych City Hall on Slavutych Day People outside Slavutych City Hall on Slavutych Day

Lancaster University is helping to provide internet connectivity for a town near Chernobyl in a UK Government funded £750,000 project to help regenerate the area which was devastated by the accident in April 1986.

The town of Slavutych in the Ukraine was built after the accident to house evacuated workers from the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and the abandoned town of Pripyat. Slavutych has 25,000 inhabitants and, although it is undergoing a process of development and diversification away from its single industry town status, economic growth is being hampered by a lack of modern and reliable telecommunications, especially internet connectivity.

Professor Garik Markarian of the Department of Communication Systems at Infolab21 helped to design the wireless broadband system and also found his Russian useful for meetings with local people.

He said: "We asked people what they wanted from the internet and it was a long list from banking to publishing. This system will also create wireless hotspots around Slavutych as well as a public access centre for those who do not have computers at home. The work is being carried out by a local company with the value-added services such as video broadcast being delivered by Rinicom, a technology company in Lancaster."

The work is well under way and should be completed by February 2009 at which point the newly installed network will be used to broadcast a 'live' TV image of the Mayor of Slavutych to the Department of Energy and Climate Change in London.

The installation of wireless broadband is part of the UK Government funded programme to address the "Social and Economic Consequences of Nuclear Power Plant Closure Programme". This programme forms part of a much larger UK government funded programme to address the nuclear, chemical and biological legacies of the Former Soviet Union.

The Project Leader appointed by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (formerly Department for Trade and Industry) to manage the project is Vince Hart from international consultants, HTSPE Ltd.

He said: "At the moment there is limited dial-up connection in Slavutych, you often can't dial internationally and businesses have to post CDs of documents abroad, so it's a communications black hole. Office workers carry documents across the road to other offices but the new "Town Information Network" will link up 54 municipal buildings and revolutionise the way many business and educational organisations operate."

Larisa Nikitenko, Director of the Slavutych Business Development Agency and local project manager for the communications project, said: "We expect the population of the town to double as businesses create jobs facilitated by the new ICT system, which will be operated by a "social enterprise", so the profits will go back into the local community."

There are also plans for Lancaster University's Engineering Department and the Lancaster Environment Centre to collaborate with the Radioecology Centre (part of the International Chernobyl Centre) in Slavutych on monitoring, a clean-up of the 30 kilometre exclusion zone around the contaminated site of the power plant and specialised radio ecology research.

The Centre Director, Dr Mikael Bondakov said: "This is an exciting time both in terms of the evolution of our Centre and the opportunities that will arise to share our expertise with like-minded scientists at Lancaster."

Fri 21 November 2008

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