Ukraine and Japan inked an agreement on Monday to launch a joint satellite project with the aim of monitoring the state and effects of the crippled nuclear plants in Chernobyl and Fukushima, sites of the world’s greatest nuclear disasters. The projects main objective is to put into orbit by eight miniature satellites by 2014 to gather information from space on the effects of radioactive fallout on the areas near the disaster-stricken nuclear facilities.
“We have agreed on cooperation in the space sector to monitor the regions surrounding Chernobyl and Fukushima,” Japan’s Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters after he held talks with his Ukrainian counterpart Leonid Kozhara. According to a statement from the Japanese foreign ministry, the joint project will involve Tokyo University and the Ukrainian state space agency. In theory, the agreement calls for Japan to develop the satellites which will be launched into space using Ukrainian carrier rockets. The satellites in the program are designed to take images from space every two hours from an altitude of about 600 kilometers. They will also receive signals from sensors installed on the ground to collect information regarding radiation levels and if they exceed normal levels.
On Sunday, Kishida had visited Chernobyl, site of the 1986 tragedy, as part of his official visit to Ukraine. He had gone there to compare notes with the Ukrainian government on relief efforts following Japan’s own nuclear disaster at Fukushima. “Yesterday at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant I was impressed with the fact that even after 27 years since the accident Ukraine still continues to struggle with the consequences of the disaster,” Japan’s minister told reporters. The earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan in March 2011 caused multiple meltdowns at the Fukushima nuclear plant in northeast Japan, and the cleanup of this nuclear disaster is expected to take around four decades.