September 6, 2005

Chernobyl helped make nuclear plants safer – IAEA

By Francois Murphy

VIENNA (Reuters) - The world's worst nuclear accident at
Chernobyl in 1986 helped improve nuclear safety by showing the
importance of international cooperation, the head of the U.N.
nuclear watchdog said on Tuesday.

The explosion at a Ukrainian nuclear reactor at Chernobyl
spewed a cloud of radioactivity over Europe and the Soviet
Union, killing 56 people to date, U.N. agencies said on Monday.
Roughly 4,000 would die in total because of radiation exposure
at the time, fewer than previously thought, they added.

"What might be considered one of the few positive aspects
of 'Chernobyl's legacy' is today's global safety regime,"
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Mohamed
ElBaradei said in a statement.

"The first lesson that emerged from Chernobyl was the
direct relevance of international cooperation to nuclear safety
... It also made clear that nuclear and radiological risks
transcend national borders -- that 'an accident anywhere is an
accident everywhere'," the statement said.

The statement, delivered by IAEA deputy director general
Tomihiro Taniguchi at a conference on Chernobyl, was backed by
the Chernobyl Forum made up of U.N. agencies and the
governments of the worst-hit countries -- Ukraine, Belarus and

The IAEA oversees nuclear safety and polices the global
pact against the spread of nuclear weapons -- the nuclear
Non-Proliferation Treaty -- but also promotes the peaceful use
of nuclear energy.

A report by the Chernobyl Forum released on Monday, which
provided the expected death toll of 4,000, said roughly 350,000
people in Belarus, Ukraine and Russia were evacuated from their
homes because of the disaster.

"Since that time, international cooperation has become a
hallmark of nuclear safety, resulting in innumerable peer
reviews, safety upgrades, bilateral and multilateral assistance
efforts, safety conventions, and the body of globally
recognized IAEA safety standards," the statement said.

The Forum aims to provide an authoritative account on
Chernobyl's effects so a scientific consensus can be reached.

ElBaradei said that now, 19 years after Chernobyl, the
nuclear industry had regained a reputation for safety.

"It has taken nearly two decades of strong safety
performance to repair the industry's reputation," he added.