In the wake of the world’s most serious nuclear accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant 30 years ago, the IAEA played central role in coordinating international response including assistance through its Technical Cooperation Programme to reduce the impact of the disaster and mitigate its consequences.
In the three decades since, the IAEA has provided over $15 million in assistance through national and regional programmes.
Regional IAEA technical cooperation activities resulted in the harmonization of national concepts, documents and decision support tools for the rehabilitation and transition to normal life conditions of affected areas in the three countries. Approaches to the radiation protection of the public were also harmonized. All work was based on international recommendations and safety standards.
Human resource capacities in Ukraine and Belarus were strengthened through the training of more than 340 professionals in radiological monitoring, remediation and recovery in the affected areas.
In addition, campaigns focussed on improving awareness of rehabilitation and safety issues among the general population, allowing for the return to normal life conditions in the affected territory. This was achieved through a dedicated website and numerous outreach efforts.
At the national level, capacities in Belarus for optimal forest management were enhanced, through radiological monitoring and the monitoring of decreasing radiation risks from contaminated forests, enabling gradual use of the forests for economic activity.
Through IAEA projects, Belarus has improved its capacity to use environmentally sound agricultural remediation technologies contributing to animal farms in affected regions becoming economically effective. Projects to make water potable have led to an overall improvement in quality of life.
IAEA activities have also built capacity in Belarus to prevent selected radionuclides from entering the food chain, contributing to safer living and well-being of the population on affected territories.
In the health sector, radiotherapy services to treat cancer have been improved with the introduction of modern techniques in radiotherapy for oncological patients.
In Ukraine, expert assistance and training was provided for decommissioning planning and design, leading to the final shut down and preservation stage of the Chernobyl plant. The radioactive waste management system and infrastructure, including radioactive waste of the shelter, was enhanced, and management structures and human resource management at the plant were improved.
Decade of Recovery and Sustainable Development of the Affected Regions
In 2007, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed a 2006–2016 as the Decade of Recovery and Sustainable Development of the Affected Regions. The resolution, which aimed to mitigate some of the continuing human and socioeconomic consequences of the catastrophe, requested United Nations organizations to coordinate their efforts and prepare an Action Plan on Chernobyl.
The main IAEA activities related to the Action Plan included the following:
- Support for the rehabilitation of the areas affected by the Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident.
- Support for the remediation of the affected areas using environmentally sound technologies.
- Radiological support for planning, design and implementation of Chernobyl-related projects upon request from other international organizations.
- Dissemination of materials of the Chernobyl Forum, established by a group of United Nations agencies in 2003 to scientifically clarify the radiological, environmental and health consequences of the accident, to provide advice on and to contribute to a scientifically sound remediation and health care programmes, and to consider the necessity of, and opportunities for, continued research/learning lessons. This dissemination facilitated communication with members of the general public, local authorities and communities, non-governmental organizations, national and international organisations.
- Assistance to Ukraine in the safety aspects of decommissioning Units 1, 2 and 3 of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and the shelter to cover the damaged reactor.
Two regional projects focused on rehabilitation and return to normal radiological environmental conditions for the areas affected by the accident. A further five national projects were carried out in Belarus, on remediation, improvement of radiotherapy services, forest management and transuranium assessment.
In Ukraine, three related national projects were carried out focusing on the decommissioning of the power plant, assistance with the shelter and waste management.
Currently, the IAEA Technical Cooperation Programme supports three projects: a regional project on radiological management of abandoned areas, a national project in Belarus on transuranium assessment and a national project in Ukraine on decommissioning and radioactive waste management at the Chernobyl plant.
Under the latest projects, there is a shift in focus from providing scientific, methodological and information support on radiological aspects related to the contaminated areas to future projects on rehabilitation.