Kox: Chernobyl must not be forgotten

2 June 2011

Kox: Chernobyl must not be forgotten

While after two months the Fukushima nuclear power station in Japan has still not been brought under control, people living in the neighbourhood of Chernobyl in the Ukraine are still, after twenty-five years, dealing with the consequences of the biggest nuclear disaster ever. Without international aid it would be impossible to keep these consequences within manageable proportions. These were the conclusions of SP Senator Tiny Kox following meetings today with the victims’ organisation in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev.

Kox was in Kiev this week as a member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in which he chairs the United European Left political group. The Council of Europe Presidency, which rotates between the forty-seven member states on a six-monthly basis, is about to pass to Ukraine. Its announced priority concerns the rights of the child, and in this respect Ukraine has a great deal to do at home, Kox was told by the Chernobyl victims’ groups.

“Twenty-five years after the biggest nuclear disaster ever the number of pregnancies in the region is lower than average,” Kox says, “and the number of miscarriages and birth defects is higher than average. Many women who are now giving birth were themselves children when the disaster occurred, during the night of 26th April 1986. Since the explosion of the nuclear reactor in Chernobyl more than the average number of people have contracted thyroid cancer and many people are dying from cardiovascular diseases as well as all kinds of cancer. As a result of radioactive contamination, huge numbers of people in Ukraine have seen their most fundamental right denied, the right to life. They feel that they have been left in the lurch by successive governments, and they also reproach the international community for its failure to implement suitable measures. They feel forgotten by the world, while they themselves can never forget the nuclear catastrophe and its consequences.”

The number of victims of the nuclear disaster in Chernobyl in 1986 is unknown. Some studies speak of thousands of dead, while others estimate that the radioactive cloud released will eventually have caused more than 100,000 deaths. The contents of the cloud fell over large parts of Europe, including the Netherlands. In April of this year an international donor conference discussed the provision of additional resources to try to limit the future consequences of the disaster. For example, a new cap is needed on the power station that exploded, as the existing sarcophagus is wearing away. “The people living around Chernobyl are convinced that delaying the necessary measures will greatly increase the chance of further contamination,” explains Kox. “They believe that politicians in other European countries should also be keeping an eye on what is happening there. It is for the most part money from the member states of the Council of Europe and the European Union which is being used. But it is far from always clear whether the available funds are being employed in the best possible way.”

The nuclear disaster at Fukushima is now demanding all our attention. But Chernobyl must not be forgotten, says Kox. “Because there are still so many victims and so many enormous dangers against which we must protect ourselves, but also because we still have so many lessons to learn from everything which want wrong at Chernobyl. If we don’t do that, further nuclear disasters will remain a possibility the world over. This week in Kiev the Council of Europe has adopted important resolutions aimed at reducing the use of heavy metals and drawing attention to the possible risks associated with electromagnetic fields. The radioactivity from Chernobyl also presents a threat to the health of the environment and therefore demands international attention, including from the Council of Europe and the EU.”

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