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Chernobyl: the true scale of the accident

Chernobyl: the true scale of the accident

20 Years Later a UN Report Provides Definitive Answers and Ways to Repair Lives

GENEVA -- A total of up to 4000 people could eventually die of radiation exposure from the Chernobyl nuclear power plant (NPP) accident nearly 20 years ago, an international team of more than 100 scientists has concluded.

As of mid-2005, however, fewer than 50 deaths had been directly attributed to radiation from the disaster, almost all being highly exposed rescue workers, many who died within months of the accident but others who died as late as 2004.

The new numbers are presented in a landmark digest report, “Chernobyl’s Legacy: Health, Environmental and Socio-Economic Impacts,” just released by the Chernobyl Forum. The digest, based on a three-volume, 600-page report and incorporating the work of hundreds of scientists, economists and health experts, assesses the 20-year impact of the largest nuclear accident in history. The Forum is made up of 8 UN specialized agencies, including the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN-OCHA), United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR), and the World Bank, as well as the governments of Belarus, the Russian Federation and Ukraine.

“This compilation of the latest research can help to settle the outstanding questions about how much death, disease and economic fallout really resulted from the Chernobyl accident,” explains Dr. Burton Bennett, chairman of the Chernobyl Forum and an authority on radiation effects. “The governments of the three most-affected countries have realized that they need to find a clear way forward, and that progress must be based on a sound consensus about environmental, health and economic consequences and some good advice and support from the international community.”

Bennett continued: “This was a very serious accident with major health consequences, especially for thousands of workers exposed in the early days who received very high radiation doses, and for the thousands more stricken with thyroid cancer. By and large, however, we have not found profound negative health impacts to the rest of the population in surrounding areas, nor have we found widespread contamination that would continue to pose a substantial threat to human health, within a few exceptional, restricted areas.”

The Forum’s report aims to help the affected countries understand the true scale of the accident's consequences and also suggests ways the governments of Belarus, the Russian Federation and Ukraine might address major economic and social problems stemming from the accident. Members of the Forum, including representatives of the three governments, will meet September 6 and 7 in Vienna at an unprecedented gathering of the world’s experts on Chernobyl, radiation effects and protection, to consider these findings and recommendations.

http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2005/pr38/en/index.html

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