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You're reading: Chornobyl’s legacy in Ukraine: Beyond the United Nations reports

Why is this the case? Although several factors can be postulated, the chief among them is the near monopoly on public discourse of two closely linked UN agencies: the UN Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Several UNSCEAR reports have been issued, the most recent of which appeared in 2008,1 while the IAEA has monitored the consequences of the disaster and safety of the Chornobyl plant since 1986, having first been invited to the Soviet Union a year earlier. That country was one of the founding members of the organization and its first civilian nuclear power station at Novovoronezh came into operation in 1964.

The World Health Organization (WHO), theoretically independent, has collaborated closely with the IAEA on Chornobyl issues and was partly responsible for the Chernobyl Forum Report issued prior to the 20th anniversary of the accident, which elicited angry responses, partly because of a press release that appeared to downgrade the health consequences of the disaster—an alternative version of the situation was presented by Greenpeace. Alongside the IAEA, UNSCEAR, and several other UN agencies, it also participates in the UN Action Plan on Chernobyl to 2016, a program for recovery of the affected areas. Nonetheless, the reports released by these agencies, and particularly UNSCEAR and the IAEA, have served partly to obfuscate the impact of the 1986 accident.

For example, Volume II, Annex D of the 2008 UNSCEAR Report focuses on health effects due to Chornobyl radiation. Suffice it to list two statements concerning overall casualties. The first notes that 19 ARS (sufferers of Acute Radiation Syndrome) survivors had died by 2006 but from different ailments “and usually [my italics] not associated with radiation exposure.” The second can be found in its General Conclusions:

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