United Nations A
General Assembly A/45/PV.32
Excerpts from the provisional verbatim record of the thirty- second
meeting held at Headquarters, New York on Tuesday, 23 October 1990,
at 10 a.m.
Mr. Blix (IAEA):
The technical causes and phases of the Chernobyl accident were analysed in detail
under the auspices of the IAEA in 1986 and the Agency has since then been
continuously engaged in various studies concerning the accident. This year, renewed
attention has been drawn to the radiological consequences of the accident through
appeals made last spring by the Byelorussian, Ukrainian and Russian Republics. Many
United Nations bodies and specialized agencies have been called upon to provide
assistance of various kinds to the affected Republics. Preparations for decisions on
assistance are under way. At the reguest of the Soviet Union, the IAEA and a number
of international organizations - such as the Food and Agriculture Organization of the
United Nations (FAO), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the World
Health Organization (WHO) and the Commission of the European Communities - with the
full participation of the affected Republics have organized an international expert
assessment of the radiological consequences of the accident and of the protective
The work of technical missions - corroborating existing data and assessing the
current radiological situation, individual and collective doses, environmental
contamination and clinical health effects and evaluating the protective measures
taken - will be completed by the end of this month. An interim report has been
submitted to the United Nations to be considered in the context of the United Nations
system's response in mitigating the consequences of the accident. The assessment will
be concluded by the end of the year and in early 1991 an International Advisory
Committee will review the task group reports and prepare a comprehensive report that
will be published by the International Atomic Energy Agency. A very substantial
effort is going into this assessment. Over 100 international experts in different
fields have visited affected areas and thousands of measurements have been taken. The
purpose of course is not only to obtain as accurate an assessment as possible but
also, when such an assessment is made, to help identify the most appropriate
Turning to IAEA activities to strengthen nuclear safety I should mention that a
conference will be arranged by the IAEA in September 1991 to discuss the next phase
of international co-operation in the field of the safety of nuclear power, including
final disposal of waste. After the Chernobyl accident in 1986, an expanded nuclear
safety programme was launched in the IAEA and many new activities were embarked upon.
It is felt that the time has come not only to assess what has been accomplished but
also to map the road to be taken in the future. Even though ultimate responsibility
for nuclear power safety remains vested in the Governments of the countries in which
the nuclear activity is taking place, safety is at the same time considered a
question of international concern.
Mr. Kravchanka (Byelorussian SSR ) (interpretation from Russian):
Mankind will most probably not be able to do without the peaceful uses of nuclear
technology both now and in the future, but every country and every people has the
right to determine when, how and in what circumstances they should be used in its
economic development strategy and its strategy for preserving environmental balance
and the biosphere. It is not a mere coincidence that in 11 out of the 27 countries
where there are currently nuclear power stations in operation, no new nuclear plant
is currently under construction.
It is obviously completely out of the question to construct nuclear power stations in
areas which have already suffered the effects of nuclear accidents-from a
humanitarian standpoint, principally. Our Parliament and Government, in view of the
situation in which the Byelorussian people finds itself and in the light of the
categorical demands the public has made, have taken the decision to halt the
construction of two nuclear power stations in Byelorussian territory, in our
Republic, there has been enthusiastic support for the decision by the Ukrainian SSR
to shut down the Chernobyl nuclear power station completely.
The fears Chernobyl caused for the future of nuclear power in the minds of its
advocates are no justification for the lack of information available to the world
community about the true scale of the Chernobyl disaster, since this lack merely
holds back the development of international solidarity and the flow of voluntary
assistance to the victims. Without over-dramatizing the situation, I can state that
among the people of the Republic, who are living in a very difficult situation in
psychological terms, there has emerged a clear element of mistrust in respect of the
activities of the official structures, particularly those in place in 1986, and there
is also hope that international assistance will be increased. I want to be completely
frank with the Assembly: the bitter truth is that it is only now, four and a half
years later, that we are finally and with tremendous difficulty making a breach in
the wall of indifference, silence and lack of sympathy, and for this we ourselves are
largely to blame.
The verdict of history has yet to be passed on those in our Republic who for over
three years hid the truth about the effects of the accident from our people. It is
difficult to say why they did this, and to disentangle cause from effect: was the
deception caused by secrecy, or was the secrecy the result of the deception? Either
way, it was inhuman.
Practically everyone in this Hall now will have had occasion to use a map, but I do
not think I will be wrong if I say that only those in the Ukrainian and Byelorussian
delegations will ever have had to use charts of radiation levels in their daily
lives. Our newspapers print them: just imagine a situation in which the life of every
family, every individual, must be organized, every day, around such charts. We are
literally living under the sword of Damocles.
A mere glance at these charts will make it clear to you how unprecedented the
situation in Byelorussia is in its complexity. Seventy per cent of the Chernobyl
radionuclides landed on Byelorussia. They have contaminated a third of its territory.
One in five of the total population, 2,200,000 people, including almost 800,000
children, have become the innocent victims of Chernobyl, hostages to the hazardous
aftermath of radiation. From 120,000 to 150,000 people residing in zones of
especially high risk are awaiting relocation to settlements now under construction in
uncontaminated areas. The geographical limits and the safety criteria for living in
the contaminated parts of the Republic have yet to be precisely defined. Over 30,000
people were evacuated in the very first months after the Chernobyl catastrophe. This
area is now a radiation desert, depopulated no-go areas covering many hundreds of
thousands of hectares, fenced off with barbed wire. It will be impossible to live
there for hundreds of years to come, even according to the most optimistic estimates.
New patches of radiation contamination keep appearing. Decontamination is not
producing the results we hoped for. Radionuclides are spreading throughout the
Republic and are threatening to spread even beyond. They have been detected in people
even in uncontaminated areas.
In order to fully comprehend the enormity of what has happened it is necessary to
review the history of the Byelorussian people within the context of European history.
There are not many peoples to which history has been as cruel as it has been to the
Byelorussian people. More than once over the last centuries it has seen its capacity
for survival put to the test. For centuries our territory, which has been a kind of
cross-roads of Europe, has not been spared a single invasion, campaign or aggression.
Wars and plagues have with terrible and implacable regularity at least once a century
reduced the Byelorussian population by a quarter to a half. Between the middle of the
seventeenth century and the end of the eighteenth, its population was halved. At the
end of the seventeenth century fewer than one million people were left on our soil.
Our stock was on the brink of physical extinction. At the beginning of the nineteenth
century we lost a quarter of our population. In the years of the First World War we
lost a fifth of our population. And the whole world knows that in the holocaust of
the Second World War one out of four inhabitants of our Republic was killed.
At the site of Khatyn, the peaceful inhabitants of the Byelorussian village were put
to the torch along with the village. In the Memorial Centre there now stand in
mourning three birch trees, and in place of the fourth tree burns an eternal flame in
memoriam. I should like to stress that it has taken a full 30 years for the
population to be restored to the pre-war figure.
Then there was this new ordeal: Chernobyl, the Calvary of the twentieth century for
the Byelorussian people. As I stand at this rostrum, in my mind I can hear the now
stilled voices of my people cry out over and over again the same question: why? why?
In Slavic languages, including the Ukrainian and Byelorussian languages, there is a
word "chernobyl", which means wormwood, bitter grass. This has striking relevance to
the Chernobyl tragedy. I am no fatalist. I do not believe in the blind inevitability
of fate, but who can fail to be moved by these tragic and elegiac words from
Revelation, which must leave their indelible imprint on the heart:
"... and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp,
and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of
And the name of the star is called Wormwood: and the third part of the
waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters, because they were
made bitter." (The Holy Bible, Revelation 8:10-11)
At the end of the twentieth century the human intellect-educated in rationalism, in
faith, in the creative power of science and knowledge-refuses to accept that those
words may prove prophetic and fateful for the Byelorussian people. To prevent
Chernobyl from becoming an irreversible tragedy for the Byelorussian people, we must
immediately adopt a more comprehensive set of additional measures, particularly
medical and biological measures. The reality is vastly different from the earlier
estimates of Soviet and foreign experts. This has been demonstrated by reliable data
concerning the deterioration in the health of our Republic's inhabitants.
There is a particular danger to the thyroid glands of children. Even now, in the
southern area of Byelorussia, the average incidence of thyroid disease has doubled.
In zones affected by radiation there has been a seven-fold or eight-fold increase in
the incidence of anaemia; a ten-fold increase in chronic pathology of the
nasopharynx; and a 1.5 to two-fold increase in the number of congenital birth
The manifold changes in the immune, endocrine, nervous and hemogeilic systems of the
human body and their slow and steady progression constitute a sort of radiation AIDS.
A serious threat is posed by deferred oncological and genetic pathologies. An upward
trend has been observed in the incidence of cancer and leukemia among children.
According to the estimates of certain authoritative American researchers, the number
of cancer cases is expected to reach its peak between 1994 and 1996.
The chronic effects of radiation over a number of generations may lead to a geometric
increase in the level of mutations. There exists a genuine threat to the gene pool of
our nation. The potential genetic threat to the population, as is clearly shown by
data from a sociological survey, in the next few years may form, in the sphere of
marriage and in other areas of human relations, a kind of band of outcasts. A
demographic decline has already begun. The natural population growth of the
Byelorussian SSR decreased from 7.4 per thousand in 1986 to 5.1 per thousand in 1989.
Our Republic is taking extraordinary measures. The Byelorussian SSR has appealed to
the world community for assistance and co-operation, and it is grateful for the
international solidarity and support that has been provided. However, assistance has
come mainly through non-governmental channels. We appreciate the co-operation that
has begun with the international specialized agencies of the United Nations and with
the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
A second Chernobyl must be prevented. We need the full store of international
experience in the struggle against the consequences of such disasters. Such
experience could be useful for the international community since the Chernobyl
disaster has global consequences. This was shown in the report of the Scientific
Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation published in 1988 and compiled on the
basis of data provided by 34 countries.
The fields of future international co-operation will be defined in large measure by
the results of international research and expert missions carried out in the affected
areas, in which a number of intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations have
taken part, including the United Nations system, particularly the United Nations
Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and IAEA, as well as the
Commission of European Communities, the League of the Red Cross and Red Crescent
Societies and tho World Council of Churches.
Our constant interest in the various forms of co-operation with the IAEA has been
demonstrated by the scientific examination of radiological effects carried out under
the auspices of the Agency and the signing by the Byelorussian SSR, the USSR and the
Ukrainian SSR with the IAEA of the quadripartite agreement on conducting
international research, and the bilateral agreement with the Agency on receiving
Our Republic intends to participate actively in working out the strategy of
rehabilitating ecological systems, preserving human health and protecting the
population against radiation. We are interested in the activities of, and
co-operation with, IAEA on the quantification of levels of radiation and
radioactivity in food and animal fodder for intervention criteria and recognition of
the role of "hot particles", effects of low-level radiation, radio-biological effects
and other deferred consequences.
We propose that an international centre be set up in the Byelorussian SSR
specifically designed to study hitherto unknown radiation ecological, and
radiobiological problems which would logically supplement the international research
of the Chernobyl centre in the Ukrainian SSR and the radiation medical centre in
Obninsk in the Russian Federation.
The Byelorussian SSR proposes a review of the criteria, terms and procedures for the
adoption of relevant decisions in the IAEA, the United Nations Development Programme
(UNDP) and other international agencies and programmes within the framework of the
United Nations system for the provision of special assistance to States in cases of
transboundary nuclear damage.
These should be primarily States which do not possess the necessary national capacity
to take protective measures. We propose also to set up a special voluntary Chernobvl
trust fund for the financing of appropriate programmes of international co-operation
and assistance. If such a fund is set up we are firmly convinced that its Board could
include eminent political figures, former presidents, Heads of State or Government,
businessmen, prominent representatives of the scientific and cultural communities,
leaders of religious communities and faiths and famous sportsmen. The IAEA, the
Interagency Committee on Reacting to Cases of Nuclear Accidents, and a number of
specialized agencies and organs within the United Nations system could also
participate in activities of such a fund.
Today we wish to make one more proposal: to proclaim 26 April, the day when Chernobyl
disaster occurred, as an international day for the prevention of nuclear and other
industrial disasters. I wish to emphasize that the Parliaments Byelorussia and the
Ukraine by special decrees have already proclaimed 26 April, the day of the Chernobyl
tragedy, a day of mourning and remembrance.
The Byelorussian SSR believes it to be very important for the forty-fifth session of
the General Assembly to adopt a special resolution which would reflect an
understanding of the global nature of the catastrophe and to formulate concrete plans
for stepping up co-ordinated action between the United Nations system, including the
IAEA, and other international organizations in order to ease and minimize the global
and local consequences of Chernobyl.
In conclusion, I should like to express the hope that the decisions to be taken by
the forty-fifth session of the General Assembly on the IAEA report and also on
questions of the effects of atomic radiation and international co-operation in the
easing and minimizing of the consequences of the Chernobyl catastrophe will promote
more active co-operation among United Nations member States and increase the
effectiveness of the work of the Agency itself.
All those problems can be resolved only if there is harmonious interaction between
ecology and politics, radiation safety and morality and further advances in
scientific thought and genuine humanism.
I am firmly convinced that the world community will not be able to enter the
twenty-first century with a clear conscience without solving global problems,
particularly those related to the prevention of war and the elimination of hunger,
disease and underdevelopment-and here we declare our full solidarity with our
brothers in the developing countries-including the problem of saving the people who
suffered from Chernobyl-Russians, Ukrainians, Byelorussians and other
nationalities-the matter of eliminating the threat to the heriditary identity of the
Let us hope that it wiil not be the words quoted above that great literary monument
of all times and peoples, the Bible, that will be prophetic and prove to be our fate
but rather the words of our national Byelorussian poet, Ouladzimir Dubouka, ringing
with faith in the indomitable will, steadfastness and tremendous vitality of our
"Oh, Belarus, my wild rose,
A green leaf, a red flower
Neither whirlwind will ever bind you
Nor chernobyl [wormwood] will ever cover"
Our people believe and trust that people of good will, fellow residents of our common
home, planet Earth, will not leave us to face catastrophe alone.
The meeting rose at 11.45 a.m.
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