30 years after Chernobyl
Three decades on, Ambassador of Belarus Sergei Aleninik writes about the progress made since the largest man-made disaster of the twentieth century
THE CHERNOBYL DISASTER was a catastrophic nuclear accident that occurred 30 years ago at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in the town of Pripyat. On 26 April 1986, an explosion and fire released large quantities of radioactive particles into the atmosphere, which spread over much of the western USSR and Europe. The Chernobyl disaster was the worst nuclear power plant accident in history, and one of only two classified as a level seven event (the maximum classification) on the International Nuclear Event Scale, the other being the Fukushima Daiichi in Japan in 2011. Although the incident took place on what is now Ukrainian soil (then the Soviet Union), around 70 per cent of the radioactive material released after the incident settled on neighbouring Belarus.It was a serious challenge for the Republic of Belarus. But the courage and staunchness of the Belarusian people and the political will of the country’s leadership, along with international support, helped the country deal with the consequences of the largest man-made disaster of the twentieth century.
As a result, Belarus has accumulated unique experience in terms of environmental monitoring, carrying out protective measures in agriculture and forestry, medical care, and the economic revival of affected territories. The country is open to sharing this experience with others.
Accordingly, Belarus actively supports international cooperation in nuclear safety and the exchange of related experience. Such expertise is essential for the realisation of the national nuclear energy project, particularly in establishing nuclear and radiation safety mechanisms, as well as national systems of radiation control and monitoring. For example, Belarusian and Japanese experts have been exchanging information and experience gathered while overcoming the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster and Fukushima nuclear accident.
The related UN General Assembly resolutions highlight the need for strengthening international cooperation to study, mitigate and minimise the consequences of the accident at Chernobyl. This currently focuses on comprehensive radiation, environmental, social and economic rehabilitation of the affected zones, and on the subsequent transition to sustainable development in those zones. Belarus is continuing to implement international projects and programmes in collaboration with the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN Development Programme, the World Health Organisation, the UN Children’s Fund and the World Bank, among other donors.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called the international community to develop a new forward-looking strategy for post-2016 international cooperation on Chernobyl. Ms Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator and head of the UN Interagency Task Force on Chernobyl, launched the preparation process in May 2014 in Minsk. Experts have met twice (in Belarus and Austria) to consider drafts for future strategy. UNDP may call a third expert meeting soon.
The most severe consequences of the Chernobyl disaster have been minimised. Nevertheless, the following tasks still demand attention and resources:
- developing a system to monitor health status, plus the delivery of healthcare to people in the affected regions;
- forming a strategy for agricultural and forestry production in the affected areas;
- improving mechanisms to protect the population of the areas from radiation;
- ensuring prevention of emergency situations on the contaminated territories;
- developing and applying information technology to set up a national Chernobyl related information system; and
- carrying out protective measures on territories with high contamination levels to meet the standard requirements for the content of radionuclides.
Following the ‘UN Decade of Recovery and Sustainable Development of the Chernobyl Affected Regions’ (started in 2007), and to discuss a strategy of international cooperation on Chernobyl going forward, Belarus’s governmental bodies are organising an international conference: ‘Thirty years after Chernobyl. From an Emergency to a Revival and Sustainable Socio-Economic Development of Affected Territories.’ This and other commemorative events took place on 25-26 April 2016 in Minsk, including top-level representatives from Belarus, Russia and Ukraine, among other countries, heads of international organisations, academics, scientists and representatives of non-governmental organisations. Professor Robin Grimes, the FCO’s Chief Scientific Adviser, represented the British Government.
Looking back at the past 30 years of international solidarity that has enormously helped to minimise the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster, I would like to take this opportunity to express our sincere gratitude to the British government for contributing and pledging over €120 million to international projects managed by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development to return the site to an environmentally safe place.
Our special thanks go to various British and Irish charities for their support extended to the people of Belarus. Our country truly appreciates the efforts that these kind and enthusiastic people have put into helping mitigate the aftermath of the Chernobyl disaster. Big or small, each charity has been doing great things and this is highly valued by Belarus.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]
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