Yearbook of International Environmental Law - Vol. 7

By Günther Handl; Jutta Brunnée et al. | Go to book overview

V. ENERGY

1. NUCLEAR ENERGY

A. POWER SAFETY

(1) 10th Anniversary of the Chernobyl Accident

1996 marked the 10th anniversary of the Chernobyl accident. In the early morning hours of 26 April 1986, two powerful explosions, occurring in rapid succession, destroyed the unit 4 reactor of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, exposing the radioactive core and releasing 50 million curies of radioactive isotopes into the environment. The consequences of that catastrophe are well known and are under continued discussion world-wide. In his "Appeal to State Members of the United Nations on the 10th Anniversary of the Accident at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant," UN Secretary- General Boutros Boutros-Ghali stated that the accident was much more than the worst technological disaster in the history of nuclear-power generation; it was also a grave and continuing humanitarian tragedy (UN Doc. GA/50/924, annex). The Secretary-General stressed that the tragic event had had a devastating effect on the social and economic life of Belarus, the Russian Federation, and Ukraine, the countries having received the largest share of the fallout from the accident.

An international conference, entitled "One Decade After Chernobyl: Summing up the Consequences of the Accident," was jointly organized by the European Commission, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and the World Health Organization in Vienna, 8-12 April. Conference participants scrutinized aspects of the accident and its consequences (for details, see: Summary of the Conference Results, IAEA Publ. PI/DSE, 96-02659, July 1996), and, in particular, the effects of radiation doses. According to the findings, 200,000 persons who, in 1986-87, participated in efforts to control and mitigate the consequences of the accident, received average doses of approximately 100 millisieverts (mSv). Around 10 percent of those received doses on the order of 250 mSv; a few percent received doses greater than 500 mSv; while perhaps several dozen people who had been involved in these efforts from the very beginning received potentially lethal doses of a few thousand mSv. The 116,000 people evacuated from the exclusion zone in 1986 had already been exposed to radiation. Fewer than 10 percent had received doses of more than 50 mSv, and fewer than 5 percent had received more than 100 mSv.

The social, economic, institutional, and political impact of the accident on Belarus, the Russian Federation, and Ukraine has been enormous. Between

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