On 26th April 2016 the international community will commemorate the 30th anniversary of the tragic accident at the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant (NPP). This disaster entered the history of civilization as a sad and tragic page. Mankind did not know such technological catastrophe before in terms of its scope and complexity of long-standing humanitarian, environmental, social, economic and health consequences.
Today, 30 years since the Chornobyl disaster of 1986 took place, its consequences can still be felt. The area around the destroyed Unit 4 of Chornobyl NPP will remain closed off for a long time due to radiation risks. More than 330 000 people who used to live in the nearest town of Pripyat still have to cope with the effects of relocation. Costs for social benefits, such as pensions and medical care have been a heavy burden for the most affected countries and in particular for Ukraine.
International cooperation to mitigate the consequences of the accident was accelerated after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The major task was to assess the risks posed by the destroyed reactor, to prepare a strategy and to provide a long-term solution to the problem. The steel and concrete structure built on the ruins of Unit 4 under extremely hazardous conditions, sometimes referred to as the Sarcophagus or the Shelter, was never meant to be more than a temporary solution.
The G7 countries and the European Union took the lead to assist Ukraine in finding a solution to the risks posed by Chornobyl’s unit 4. International donors financed the work of international and Ukrainian experts to elaborate a programme through which the Shelter could be transformed into an environmentally safe site. As the result, the Shelter Implementation Plan (SIP), which incorporates experience of previous works, was agreed between Ukraine and the G7/EU in mid-1997.
The SIP describes a program consisting of a step-by-step approach to the fundamental technical problems. However, the SIP does not prescribe a specific technical solution but defines the route to reach these solutions. Its overall goal is to decrease the risks to workers, the population and the environment – all the possible risks, stemming from the Shelter and to create an environmentally safe site for at least the next 100 years.
As of today, according to the State Agency of Ukraine on Exclusion Zone Management among 22 primary tasks, stipulated by the SIP, 17 tasks have been successfully carried out, 3 – are underway, 2 – were transferred outside the framework of the Plan. Construction of a new safe confinement is expected to be completed by November 2017. Subsequently the meeting of the Joint Committee “Ukraine – European Bank for Reconstruction and Development” (EBRD) took place in Kyiv to review the financial standing of the Chornobyl Shelter Fund (CSF) and to discuss the status of projects implementation in the area of construction a New Safe Confinement – Chornobyl Shelter and a storage facility for Spent Nuclear Fuel in Ukraine.
Chornobyl’s catastrophe introduced essential changes in many spheres of human activity not only in Ukraine, but also in the world scale. The disaster had a serious political impact and changed attitudes towards nuclear energy all over the world. International regulations and standards for radioactive protection, national strategies for nuclear energy development, nuclear safety and radioactive waste management have been substantially revised.
The most important lesson learned from the Chornobyl accident in April 1986 is to bring about lasting improvements in nuclear and radiation safety globally. Practical and theoretical knowledge gained after the disaster at the Chornobyl NPP was widely used by the expert community to address the causes and consequences of the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan in 2011.
Over the past few years, Ukraine together with the UN agencies, European Union, governments, scientific organizations and NGOs of a number of countries has done a lot to mitigate and minimize the consequences of the disaster and study its effects on public health and the environment. In particular, a number of important national projects on decommissioning and radioactive waste management at the Chornobyl NPP were successfully implemented in Ukraine through the Technical Cooperation Programme of the IAEA. This organization provided technical expertise to reduce people’s exposure to radioactivity emanating from Chornobyl and advised the Government of Ukraine on securing the destroyed reactor site and return the land to productive use.
The most challenging problem of the post-Chornobyl recovery nowadays is the integrated radiological and socioeconomic rehabilitation of the contaminated areas. The main goal of the rehabilitation – real economic recovery and sustainable development of the affected areas – requires new approaches, scientifically justified decisions and full-scale financial and technical engagement of all the parties concerned.
To commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Chornobyl disaster the Government of Ukraine will organize a number of high-level events, including the International Forum “Chernobyl’s Legacy for the Nuclear Safety of the World” (21-23 April), the meeting of the Assembly of NSA donor countries and Pledging Conference (25 April), as well as the commemorative events on the site area of the Chornobyl NPP (26 April).
On 26 April 2016 H.E. Mogens Lykketoft, the President of the 70th session of the UN General Assembly will convene a special commemorative meeting of the Assembly in observance of the 30th anniversary of the Chornobyl disaster.
This sad date offers an important opportunity to focus the attention of the international community on the problems of recovery and the needs of the affected areas and mobilize the international assistance to complement the national mitigation efforts. It is also very important to remember on possible tragic results and consequences of global human activity as well as victims of those tragic events.