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Special column
Chernobyl Catastrophe's 25th Anniversary Marked in Ukraine and All Over the World
By Volodymyr Belashov
Ukrainian Ambassador to Seoul
Mr. Volodymyr Belashov, Ukrainian Ambassador to Seoul

Among all the tragedies that mankind has already faced, the Chornobyl catastrophe still, even after Japan’s accident at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant, has no analogies. It left its disastrous trace on the ecology, multiplied health hazards for humans, and caused a deterioration of social, economic and living conditions.

It all started on April 25, 1986 when a combination of circumstances provoked a series of blasts at Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant (CNPP). This led to Reactor #4's ruination and the emission of a huge amount of radioactive substances into the atmosphere. It was 1:24 a.m., April 26.

Hiding the scale of the catastrophe – tactics chosen by the former USSR leadership, resulted in the spread of the most unbelievable rumors on might-be catastrophe consequences. This, in turn, caused the rise of a grave social and psychological tension among the people, as well as a general suspicion of any information released officially by the Soviet government.

The Chornobyl catastrophe affected 5 million people and brought contamination to more than 145,000 square kilometers and 5,000 settlements within the Ukrainian, Belarusian and Russian territories.

Ukraine has been unable to cope with the aftermath of the Chornobyl catastrophe alone. Expenses related to the aftermath of Chernobyl have proven to be beyond the realistic capacities of Ukraine’s economy, and support from the international community continues to be indispensable.

Destroyed reactor of the 4th block of Chornobyl nuclear plant in 1986
Property/Courtesy of Ukrinform

On Dec. 20, 1995, the Memorandum of Understanding on the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant (CNPP) Closure between Ukraine, G7 (referred to as G8 after the Russian Federation joined the Group) and the European Union was signed in Ottawa, Canada. This document defines the principles of cooperation between Ukraine and G8 states in locating, mobilizing and raising funds for the closure of the CNPP.

On December 15, 2000, Ukraine shut down the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant (CNPP) before the end of its life cycle exploitation. It was done out of the country’s good will, to meet the requirements of Ottawa Memorandum as well as requests from the world community.

Relieving Chornobyl disaster consequences, decommissioning the CNPP, and transforming the plant into an ecologically safe system involve serious expenses. Despite the allotment of tens of millions US dollars annually in the state budget, Ukraine is able only to fund the most necessary of activities. Without foreign assistance, Ukraine is unable to cover in full all necessary expenses. Two special accounts were established by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) to receive and administer donations from the foreign community.

The Chornobyl Shelter Fund holds donors’ conferences as one of its fundraising methods. The first event of that kind was held on November 20, 1997 in New York. The delegates’ contributions amounted to $343 million dollars.

The 2nd such conference took place in Berlin on July 5, 2000. The Prime Minister of Ukraine and Vice-Chancellor of Germany co-chaired the event. During the conference, a sum of $325 million dollars was contributed to the CSF.

The next meeting was held in London on May 12, 2005. The money raised then reached approximately $185 million dollars.

Nowadays, the implementation of the Shelter Implementation Plan for the site of the unit 4 at the CNPP Fund aimed at bringing it to the environmentally safe condition has reached the most important stage. Currently, the different elements of its infrastructure are at various stages of completion, and the works at the site of the CNPP are ongoing.

But, as of now there are no enough funds to finance all necessary works. It still lacks about $740 million Euro to finalize two most important projects: a) so called New Safe Confinement, and b) an Interim Spent Fuel Storage Facility.

To collect lacking funds the Pledging Conference was held on April 19, 2011 in Kyiv. The Conference raised 550 million Euros for the mentioned projects. The Republic of Korea pledged 140 thousand Euros.

Also on April 19 Kyiv hosted the “Kyiv Summit on Safe and Innovative Use of Nuclear Energy”. Initiated by the President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych, this forum brought together high-level representatives from many countries and influential international organizations including leaders of states and governments, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the President of the European Commission, the President of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, IAEA Director General as well as other officials from around the world. They gathered to discuss prospects of finding secure ways of developing nuclear energy and using it for peaceful purposes.

The urgency of the Summit proves to be indisputable and the latest tragic events at the Japanese nuclear power plant have once again shown that. International community including heads of states and governments, leaders of civic organizations has realized that nuclear energy can pose an extremely serious threat to the peoples and mankind. Ukraine adheres to the principles of responsibility and proactiveness in its nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation policy which cement the country’s profound understanding of the necessity to further develop nuclear energy under the criteria of its secured, innovative and peaceful usage. Clear example of manifestation of such position is Ukraine’s historic decision to entirely eliminate its highly enriched nuclear materials.

Among the objectives of the April 2011 summit in Kyiv was Ukraine’s intention to focus attention of the delegates on other issues, also important for the majority of states in the world. One of them is the nations’ right to develop international cooperation aimed at nuclear energy peaceful usage. The other – to secure that each country has an equal access to nuclear materials and technologies but bears full responsibility if WMD non-proliferation principles are broken.

The Heads of States, Governments and the Representatives of the participating States and Organizations at the Kyiv Summit on Safe and Innovative Use of Nuclear Energy approved respective Declaration. The document underlines that application of safety measures must continue to be a top priority in all activities related to nuclear energy use. “The unfolding events at the Fucushima-Daiichi nuclear plant remind us of the importance of strengthening nuclear safety and of responding promptly to nuclear accidents and emergencies including those caused by large scale natural disasters” – highlights the Declaration.

Hosting the Kyiv Summit in the capital of Ukraine, among other things, was a significant contribution to efforts to expand international support for the decisions made at the Washington Summit on Nuclear Safety held in April 2010.

One cannot but mention the role of the United Nations, the organization that has been assisting the Ukrainian government in mitigating and minimizing long-term consequences of Chornobyl disaster as well as normalizing life conditions on the radiation polluted territories. On December 15, 2010 UN General Assembly unanimously passed the Resolution 65/131 “Strengthening of International Cooperation and Coordination of Efforts to Study, Mitigate and Minimize the Consequences of the Chernobyl Disaster” initiated by the Government of Ukraine and co-authored by more than 70 UN member states. The document appeals to the world community to continue assisting Ukraine and other countries that suffered the most in their efforts to mitigate and minimize the consequences of Chornobyl disaster. The resolution underlines efforts undertaken by the Government of Ukraine and international donors’ community aimed at completing the construction of the “Shelter” object at the 4th CNPP reactor and its modification into ecologically safe system.

The new approach to Chernobyl problems demand that social and economic issues get into focus of attention and real changes come to local communities.




 

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