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Introduction: Sorting out the Facts

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Few names around the world are better recognized than "CHERNOBYL." And few events have evoked greater controversy among scientists, government officials and the public. Over the decade since explosions destroyed the nuclear power plant in Ukraine, the accident and its aftermath have been studied extensively. Today, there is a common understanding among experts about what happened, why it happened and the major implications. But to much of the broader public around the world, the accident remains an enigma-a phenomenon that is feared, but little understood.

Chernobyl was by far the most devastating accident in the history of nuclear power. Radioactive fallout was mainly concentrated in the three former Soviet Republics States closest to the plant, but it also came down at lower concentrations over much of the entire Northern Hemisphere. What do we now know about the health and environmental impacts of this massive discharge of radioactive material? Opening day of the Conference at the Austria Center

This booklet attempts briefly to bring to light what has been learned after ten years of examining the consequences of the accident, reviewing both its immediate and long-term human health and environmental impacts. It is based principally upon the results of an international conference, "One Decade After Chernobyl: Summing Up the Consequences of the Accident," which brought together more than 800 experts from 71 countries in Vienna in April 1996 under sponsorship of the European Commission (EC), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).1

Today, people in the countries most affected by the accident-Belarus, Russian Federation and Ukraine and Belarus-continue to live with the consequences. This booklet aims to help both them and the broader public to separate the facts from the fears, and the scientific evidence from the science fiction.

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1 This conference took into account the results of major projects performed over the last ten years, including the International Chernobyl Project carried out in 1990-91, a 1995-96 IAEA project on the prospects for the contaminated territories, the WHO IPHECA (International Programme on the Health Effects of the Chernobyl Accident), and the Research Projects sponsored by the European Commission in collaboration with scientists in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine.