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Event commemorating the
18th Anniversary
of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster

History of the United Nations and Chernobyl

Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, April 26, 1986- the routine 20-second shut down of the system seemed to be another test of the electrical equipment. But seven seconds later, a surge created a chemical explosion that released nearly 520 dangerous radionuclides into the atmosphere. The total power of the explosion was estimated to be more than 100 times that of the atomic weapons used in World War II. The force of the explosion spread contamination over large parts of the Soviet Union, now the territories of Belarus, Ukraine and Russia. Had the other three RBMK blocks exploded, high-levels of radiation would have spread to the English Channel. According to official reports, thirty-one people died immediately and 600,000 liquidators, involved in fire fighting and clean-up operations, were exposed to the high doses of radiation. Based on the official reports, near 8,400,000 people in Belarus, Ukraine and Russia were exposed to the radiation, which is more than the population of Austria. About 155,000 sq. km of territories in the three countries were contaminated, which is almost half of the total territory of Italy. Agricultural areas covering nearly 52,000 sq. km, which is more than the size of Denmark, were contaminated with cesium-137 and strontium-90, with 30-year and 28-year half-lives respectively. Nearly 404,000 people were resettled but millions continued to live in an environment where continued residual exposure created a range of adverse effects.

In the General Assembly Hall on 27 April 2004, nearly one thousand people participated in the special event to commemorate the 18th anniversary of the Chernobyl accident.

The Chernobyl Children's Project (CCP), Ireland, and Nadezdu Dtiam (Hope to the Children), Belarus, were selected as the NGO Representatives for the Steering Group of International Chernobyl Research and Information Network (ICRIN).

No reports were released until the third day after the Chernobyl explosion. Then, Swedish authorities correlated a map of enhanced radiation levels in Europe with wind direction and announced to the world that a nuclear accident had occurred somewhere in the Soviet Union. Before Swedens announcement, the Soviet authorities were conducting emergency fire fighting and clean-up operations but had chosen not report to the accident or its scale in full. No established legitimate authority was able to immediately address the situation and provide answers for questions such as: Is it safe to leave the house? Is it safe to drink water? Is it safe to eat local produce? Communicating protective measures early would also have most likely enabled the population to escape exposure to some radionuclides, such as iodine 131, which are known to cause thyroid cancer. Early evacuation would have helped people avoid the area when iodine 131 is most dangerous, 8-16 days after release.

During the first four years after the Chernobyl accident the Soviet authorities decided to largely deal with the consequences of the explosion at a national level. Without Soviet support, the United Nations and its partners sought ways to provide emergency support, which included assessing the nuclear safety and environmental conditions of the contaminated area, and diagnose the various medical conditions that resulted from the accident. The UN also focused on raising the awareness of the areas inhabitants, teaching them how to protect themselves from radionuclides found in the environment and agricultural products.

It is here that the story begins. With the history of the UN and Chernobyl, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has provided information on all aspects of the Chernobyl and UN work such as: UN Coordinators, Inter-Agency Task Force, Quadripartite Coordination Committee, OCHA, Chernobyl Trust Fund, as well as the ICRIN Chernobyl network. For more information click any of the links above.



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