Another anniversary : 25 years after Chernobyl

It seems that April is a bad month for the environment. Last week I was writing about the BP oil spill and now I am writing about what took place in Ukraine. The worst nuclear accident ever indeed took place on April 26th, 1986.

This was the occasion for Ban Ki Moon – the secretary general of the United Nations – to visit Chernobyl. He also published an interesting opinion article in today’s edition of the New York Times.

In this article, Mr Moon outlines a five point strategy to improve nuclear safety and reliability. Only this way will we be able to keep using this low carbon energy source.

Here is a quote of this article :

  • First, it is time for a top to bottom review of current safety standards, both at the national and international levels.
  • Second, we need to strengthen the work of the International Atomic Energy Agency on nuclear safety.
  • Third, we must put a sharper focus on the new nexus between natural disasters and nuclear safety. Climate change means more incidents of freak and increasingly severe weather. With the number of nuclear facilities set to increase substantially over the coming decades, our vulnerability will grow.
  • Fourth, we must undertake a new cost-benefit analysis of nuclear energy, factoring in the costs of disaster preparedness and prevention as well as cleanup when things go wrong.
  • Fifth and finally, we need to build a stronger connection between nuclear safety and nuclear security. At a time when terrorists seek nuclear materials, we can say with confidence that a nuclear plant that is safer for its community is also more secure for the world.

Here is Mr. Moon’s conclusion :

The world has witnessed an unnerving history of near-accidents. It is time to face facts squarely. We owe it to our citizens to practice the highest standards of emergency preparedness and response, from the design of new facilities through construction and operation to their eventual decommissioning.

Issues of nuclear power and safety are no longer purely matters of national policy, alone. They are a matter of global public interest. We need international standards for construction, agreed guarantees of public safety, full transparency and information-sharing among nations.

Let us make that the enduring legacy of Chernobyl. Amid the silence there, I saw signs of life returning. A new protective shield is being erected over the damaged reactor. People are beginning to return.

Let us resolve to dispel the last cloud of Chernobyl and offer a better future for people who have lived for too long under its shadow.

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