What is the role of international community in mitigating aftermath of the Chornobyl catastrophe?

The answer to the question is based on the outcomes of New-York – Kyiv international video conference that took place in Kyiv (Ukraine) on April 28, 2005. The following experts provided their answers to the question:

  • Valerii Glygalo, Director for Quality, Chornobyl Center
  • Bohdan Serdiuk, Chornobyl NPP
  • Markiyan Kulyk, Head of the UN Office, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine

Valerii Glygalo, Director for Quality, Chornobyl Center

The agreement between the USSR Government and the IAEA on studying the consequences of the Chornobyl NPP accident signed in September 1990 could be regarded as a start of the international cooperation.

Later, the international assistance developed in two basic directions: humanitarian and technical.

What is considered to be a humanitarian aid? The following:

  • supplies of medical equipment;
  • supplies of medicines to people living within the contaminated area;
  • recovery of children affected by the Chornobyl catastrophe;
  • studying medical and ecological consequences;
  • assistance in transition to market economy.

Humanitarian aid was provided by both international programs and institutions including the European Commission within the framework of TACIS program, UN Development Program, UNESCO and by the states – the USA, the UK, Japan, Germany, France, Spain, Cuba and many others. During several years, families from many European countries have been inviting children affected by the Chornobyl catastrophe to spend summer holidays in their houses. Ukrainian people are very grateful for this help.

Provision of technical assistance has become particularly active after signing the Memorandum of Understanding on the Chornobyl NPP closure between the Government of Ukraine and the G7 Governments in 1995. Very many projects have been completed and are being currently implemented. They cover the Chornobyl NPP decommissioning and conversion of the Shelter Object into an ecologically safe facility. A representative of the Chornobyl NPP will inform you on these projects.

However, international assistance has been being provided not only at the Chornobyl site. The whole world was scared at a recurrence of similar accidents at other nuclear power plants. Exactly due to this fact, a great number of international projects was implemented at the operating NPPs in Ukraine. The objective of the initiatives was to improve safety of the operating power units.

The Chornobyl Center is also a vivid example of the international cooperation.

The Center was established on April 26, 2996, on the 10-th anniversary of the accident. Its foundation was initiated by the governments of Ukraine and the United States of America. Later, the Center’s activities were supported by the governments of the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Japan. We provide scientific and technical support to both operating nuclear power plants of Ukraine and to the Chornobyl NPP, which is now at its decommissioning stage. Another direction of our activity is studying ecological consequences of the Chornobyl accident. While working jointly with the western experts, the CC personnel took over best international practices. Owing to the international technical assistance, our Center possesses state-of-the-art software and hardware. And the result is our confidence in the future.

Bohdan Serdiuk, Chornobyl NPP

The State Budget of Ukraine is still the major source of finance required to maintain nuclear and radiation safe condition of the power units and Shelter Object. Though, after the Chornobyl NPP closure, only the year of 2003 may be characterized as a year of stable financing.

In terms of its significance, the Shelter Implementation Plan (SIP) is the most outstanding project among the ones implemented at the ChNPP and supported by the world community. It is financed by the international community from the funds provided by donor countries and accumulated in the ‘Shelter’ International Chornobyl Fund.

The Shelter Implementation Plan envisages stabilizing structures of the existing sarcophagus, construction of a new protective covering around the Shelter – the New Safe Confinement, deconstruction of unstable structures, etc. The SIP basic budget amounts to 758 million dollars, including 50 million dollars contributed by Ukraine.

Start of the confinement construction is planned for 2006, its completion is scheduled for 2009. However, there are some unsettled financial problems caused by price escalation that has taken place since the start of the Plan. Therefore, collection of additional money to the ‘Shelter’ Chornobyl Fund is required. To date, the necessity to increase the budget up to 1 billion 100 thousand dollars is substantiated. The G7 countries have already announced granting of additional money in the amount of 160 million dollars for the SIP implementation.

Except for the Shelter activities, the Replacement Heat Plant was constructed and commissioned in 2001 at the ChNPP. 75% of its cost were covered by the United States Department of Energy.

Within the framework of the international financial assistance, a number of facilities required for the ChNPP decommissioning are under construction at the ChNPP site. These include the Liquid Radioactive Waste Treatment Plant, the Spent Nuclear Fuel Storage Facility.

Within the framework of the TACIS nuclear safety improvement program, the Industrial Complex for Solid Radwaste Management is being constructed at the cost of the European Commission.

It is also noteworthy, that in 1991 UNESCO initiated a large-scale program aimed at addressing psychological and social issues related to the accident. The program was financed by the European countries, its cost amounted to 9 million dollars. The UNESCO program was completed in 1998, however its rehabilitation centers are continuing their operation in Ukraine.

Currently, the UNDP is successfully implementing the project for social mobilization of people living on the territories affected by the ChNPP accident. Due to the project, a potential of local communities is involved into addressing urgent problems faced by villages and towns.

Particularly, the town of Slavutych is currently getting a considerable assistance in implementing social programs from the UK Department of Trade and Industry.

Markiyan Kulyk, Head of the UN Office, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine

The activities to mitigate aftermath of the ChNPP accident was initiated by the United Nations Organization in 1990 as an answer to the appeal of Ukrainian, Belarus, and USSR Governments. Since 1991, the UN General Assembly has adopted a series of resolutions regarding the necessity to strengthen the international cooperation aimed at studying and minimizing aftermath of the Chornobyl catastrophe.

The UN Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, who is the Head of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA), was assigned to perform the functions of UN Coordinator for Chornobyl and coordinate the activities of the Quadri-partite Coordination Committee for Chornobyl that has been established under the United Nations’ aegis. Members of the Committee include heads of the departments dealing with the Chornobyl problems in Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia.

The support to the UN activities aimed at elimination of the catastrophe’s consequences should have been provided by the appropriate UN Chornobyl Trust Fund. Governments of Switzerland, the USA, and Ireland, as well as private funds of Japan and Germany made the largest contributions to the Fund. Unfortunately, the collected costs were not enough to satisfy urgent needs of the affected countries in international assistance.

Complicated situation with the Chornobyl activities financing by donors and generally reduced attention of the UN to the Chornobyl-related problems impelled the countries mostly affected by the Chornobyl accident jointly with the UN Secretariat to search for new UN strategies to this end, and particularly to involve the UN institutions carrying out the mandate for real-time development-focused activities into the struggle against the long-term consequences.

The new UN Chornobyl-related strategy was set in the ‘Chornobyl Resolution’ adopted by the 56-th session of UN AG. Besides, this session was coordinated by the Ukrainian delegation. The new stage in the UN activity is called ‘recovery phase’ and is treated as the one following a completion of 15-year ‘emergency assistance phase’ that has included immediate activities aimed at ensuring reactor safety, resettlement from the contaminated areas, supplies of urgent humanitarian aid, and search for new ways to overcome long-term consequences of the catastrophe through ‘pilot’ projects and corresponding research.

The UN Secretary-General has appointed Kalman Miszei, UNDP Director of Regional Bureau for Europe and CIS, as the UN Deputy Coordinator for Chornobyl with the objective to ensure appropriate coordination of the renovated UN Chornobyl strategy and to distribute areas of responsibilities among its participants.

The ‘recovery phase’ envisages concentration of joint efforts of donors and governments of Ukraine, Belarus, and Russian Federation in order to create favorable conditions for economic and social development of individuals and communities affected by the catastrophe and stimulate their complete integration into society. After the ‘recovery phase’ completion, it is planned to transfer to the next, ‘management phase’. Its action plan shall be specified later, with due regard to the extent of completing the activities set forth for the ‘recovery phase’.

The Program for Recovery and Development of the Areas Affected by the Chornobyl Catastrophe is currently implemented within the framework of the new UN strategy. The Program is scheduled for 2002-2005. Total budget of the projects planned within its framework is 2.5 million dollars.

We wait for increased efforts of the general UNDP and UN system in the area eliminating the catastrophe aftermath. Working with donors, which is to ensure financing required to efficiently accomplish the projects agreed with government, is among the top-priority tasks to this end. The renewed Chornobyl-related strategy of the United Nations shall be practically implemented through these projects.

We are sure that the joint efforts success will mostly depend on the world community’s awareness of urgent needs of the affected population. Therefore, it is important for us to appropriately publicize the problems of Chornobyl, for them to disseminate and to be heard by the United Nations.

Exactly due to this fact, jointly with Russia and Belarus Ukraine came out with an initiative to hold a special meeting dedicated to the 20-th anniversary of the accident (April 2006) during the 60-th session of the UN General Assembly. We hope that this initiative will be supported by not only the UN member countries delegations, but also by other our partners in the matter of collaboration aimed at overcoming the catastrophe’s aftermath, which are not indifferent to the Chornobyl tragedy, including the NGOs concerned.