The European Commission has announced the launch, under the TACIS programme, of a new phase in its efforts to improve nuclear safety in the former Soviet Union. For the first time, teams of nuclear experts are being sent to six Russian and two Ukrainian plants for periods of up to a year in order to carry out on-site upgrading of civil nuclear installations. This action increases by ECU 62 million resources already spent (ECU 20 million) on nuclear safety in Russia and the Ukraine. ECU 32 million of this will go towards on-site costs and the remaining ECU 30 million is being spent on 23 contracts to companies that will carry out studies to detect further weaknesses in Russian-built reactors and the way they are operated. Sir Leon Brittan, EC Commissioner for external economic relations, believes that this new action is an ice-breaker in EC-Russian/Ukrainian nuclear relations and will go a long way towards constructing the climate of trust and confidence that is crucial if the safety of high-risk reactors is to be improved. The assistance provided will include the installation of computerized protection systems, provision of inspection tools for detecting leaks in components, provision of welding equipment and spare parts and the training of local operators in order to minimize the probability of nuclear accident. As neither Russia nor the Ukraine are members of the Vienna or Paris Convention, which regulate the liability of owners and operators of nuclear plants, companies are unwilling to take the risk of becoming involved in on-site nuclear work without international cover. The Commission has therefore developed an ad hoc arrangement which will enable companies to begin work pending the accession of Russia and the Ukraine to the Conventions.