Chernobyl: Clarifying Consequences

Mr. Abel González (left) addressing the meeting of the Chernobyl Forum in March 2004. (Credit: D. Calma/IAEA)

Eighteen years after the Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident, people in the region still live with wildly varying reports about what impact the accident will have on their families’ future health and the environment. The IAEA initiated 'Chernobyl Forum' is working to give people in the affected villages greater certainty, by issuing factual, authoritative statements on the health effects caused by radiation exposure from the reactor explosion and its environmental consequences.

The Forum - comprising eight United Nations organisations, and Belarus, Russia and the Ukraine - met in Vienna 10-11 March 2004 at IAEA headquarters. IAEA Director of Radiation and Waste Safety, Mr. Abel González, said conflicting information had caused tremendous confusion and suffering.

"People living in the affected villages are very distressed because the information they receive - from one expert after another turning up there - is inconsistent. People living there are afraid for their children. The aim of the Forum is not to repeat the thousands of studies already done, but to give them authorative, transparent statements that show the factual situation in the aftermath of Chernobyl," Mr. González said.

The Forum was set up in 2003 following discussions between IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei and the Prime Minister of Belarus. It is part of broader efforts to help implement the UN strategy on the Human Consequences of the Chernobyl Nuclear Accident - A Strategy for Recovery.

At its meeting in Vienna in March 2004, initial reports were presented by the Forum’s expert groups for 'health' (led by the World Health Organization) and the 'environment' (led by the IAEA). It is expected the Forum will issue it findings at an international conference to be held in 2005 or 2006.

Another key aspect of the Forum’s work is to advise on, and help to implement, programmes that mitigate the accident's impact. For example, this could include:

  • Remediation of contaminated land;
  • Special health care of the affected population;
  • Monitoring long-term human exposure to radiation;
  • Environmental aspects of decommissioning the Chernobyl nuclear reactor and the Shelter and;
  • Addressing environmental issues related to radioactive waste from the accident.

For the Forum's Terms of Reference see related links. The UN organizations involved in the Forum include the IAEA, Food and Agriculture Organization, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, UN Development Programme, UN Environment Programme, UN Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation, the World Health Organization and the World Bank.

The Forum is part of ongoing IAEA efforts to mitigate the effects of Chernobyl. Since the 1986 accident it has assisted with technical activities, environmental and agricultural monitoring and rehabilitation.

Last update: 12 November 2014