Press Releases

    GA/SPD/217
    19 October 2001

    SCIENTIFIC COMMITTEE’S 2001 REPORT ON RADIATION’S HEREDITARY EFFECTS NOTED, 46-YEAR CONTRIBUTION COMMENDED, IN TEXT APPROVED BY FOURTH COMMITTEE


    NEW YORK, 18 October (UN Headquarters) -- The General Assembly would maintain the present functions and independent role of the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation, under terms of a draft resolution approved this morning by the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization), as it concluded its consideration of the issue.

    By other terms of the draft, approved without a vote, the Assembly would note with appreciation the release of the Scientific Committee’s extensive report on the hereditary effects of radiation and commend the Scientific Committee for its valuable contribution in the last 46 years to wider knowledge and understanding of the levels, effects and risks of ionizing radiation.

    The General Assembly would, by other terms, request the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to continue providing support for the Scientific Committee and for the dissemination of its findings to the General Assembly, the scientific community and the public. It would also welcome the readiness of Member States to provide the Committee with relevant information on the effects of ionizing radiation in affected areas and invite the Committee to give due consideration to such information, particularly in light of its own findings.

    Before the action on the draft, most speakers in the general debate emphasized the great scope and potential benefits of using nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, especially in the agricultural, industrial and medical fields. They also, however, warned of the great risks of atomic radiation, and spoke of the need for technical assistance to promote development and social progress through the safe application of nuclear technologies.

    Other speakers also highlighted the dangers posed by the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and stressed the need for States to open their facilities to the safeguard regime of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

    Speaking in the debate this morning were the representatives of Thailand (on behalf of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN)), Egypt, Uruguay (on behalf of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR) and associated States), Syria, Pakistan, Cuba and Burkina Faso.)

    The representatives of Israel and Egypt spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

    When the Fourth Committee meets again at 3 p.m. Monday, 22 October, it will begin its consideration of international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space.

    Background

    As the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) met this morning, it had before it a draft resolution (document A/C.4/56/L.5) by which the General Assembly would note with appreciation the release of the Report of the United Nations Scientific Committee on the effects of atomic radiation, which contains an evaluation of the hereditary effects of radiation.

    By other terms of the draft, the Assembly would commend the Scientific Committee for its valuable contribution in the last 46 years to wider knowledge and understanding of the levels, effects and risks of ionizing radiation, and for fulfilling its original mandate with scientific authority and independence of judgement.

    Further, the Assembly would reaffirm the decision to maintain the Committee’s present functions and independent role, including its present reporting arrangements. Also by the text, the Assembly would endorse the intentions and plans of the Committee for its future activities of scientific review and assessment on behalf of the General Assembly.

    The General Assembly would, by other terms, request the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to continue providing support for the effective conduct of the Scientific Committee’s work and for the dissemination of its findings to the General Assembly, the scientific community and the public.

    Also by the draft, the Assembly would express its appreciation for assistance to the Scientific Committee by Member States, the specialized agencies, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). It would welcome the readiness of Member States to provide the Committee with relevant information on the effects of ionizing radiation in affected areas and invite the Committee to give due consideration to such information, particularly in light of its own findings.

    Statements

    CHUCHAI KASEMSARN (Thailand), on behalf of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), said that the Scientific Committee's valuable contributions had deepened awareness of the enormous risks of exposure to atomic radiation, the dangers of the misuse of atomic energy and the need for protection from adverse effects. In that vein, he welcomed the Scientific Committee’s report on the important subject of the hereditary effects of radiation, as well as its cooperation with other relevant bodies. He hoped that more such cooperation with, especially, UNEP, would be forthcoming.

    It was important, he said, to find alternate sources of energy, apart from fossil fuel. Nuclear energy was one such option; however, along with its socio-economic benefits there were huge dangers to health and the environment. For that reason, it was important for developed nations to extend all possible assistance to developing countries, in particular through technology transfer, in the interest of safe and sustainable nuclear energy. Strict adherence to IAEA standards in handling nuclear materials was also crucial.

    The ASEAN, he said, also continued to call for the elimination of nuclear weapons in compliance with the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). In addition, every precaution must be taken to prevent nuclear technology from falling into the wrong hands. To that end, ASEAN had: established a nuclear-free zone; convened a regional workshop on a strategic plan for radiation safety; and would continue to support the Scientific Committee, as well as other international bodies relevant to the issue.

    WALID HAGGAG (Egypt) said the 2001 report reflected the Scientific Committee's leading role in the field, especially following last year's major study on the sources of ionized radiation. The Committee, of which Egypt was a founding member, was implementing its mandate at the highest scientific and professional levels. Egypt welcomed the submission of its programme of work.

    He said the use of nuclear technology could be highly lucrative and beneficial to all countries and peoples, especially if used for agricultural, industrial and medical purposes. Egypt emphasized the need to transfer such technology without preconditions and on a non-selective basis.

    Underscoring the dangers that nuclear proliferation posed to the peoples of the Middle East, he called for the opening of all nuclear installations to the comprehensive safeguard regime of the IAEA. Israel had refused to open its nuclear reactors for inspection by the IAEA and the international community at large.

    FELIPE PAOLILLO (Uruguay), on behalf of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR) and associated States, underscored the scope and potential of the proper, peaceful and intelligent use of nuclear energy, as well as its value and increasing applications in agriculture, industry and medicine. At the same time, however, the sources of radiation posed enormous risks to the planet and its entire population. It was a collective responsibility to share not only resources, but also all information on the effects of radiation.

    He said the excellence of the Scientific Committee’s 2001 report was particularly reflected in its conclusions concerning inherited risks that could result from exposure to radiation and the so-called multifactorial illnesses. It was yet another example of the importance of objective and independent analysis of atomic radiation and its effects on genetic and environmental factors. That information had made it possible in the past to elaborate protection measures at the national and international levels. For that reason, he said, the MERCOSUR States supported any initiative to assess possible risks with a view to improving the existing regulatory and protective mechanisms. They had reaffirmed their commitment to the use of nuclear energy exclusively for peaceful purposes, a commitment that had been renewed in the declaration of the region as a zone of peace.

    LOUAY FALLOUH (Syria) stressed that nuclear technology and its peaceful applications were very useful for mankind and could improve living standards in developing countries. The Scientific Committee had contributed much to the understanding of the risks of atomic radiation, and Syria encouraged its further cooperation with relevant scientific bodies and Member States. He called upon the United Nations system to include in its future plans increased technical support to overcome difficulties in the peaceful uses of nuclear technology, in order to strengthen sustainable development and narrow the gap between North and South.

    Syria’s nuclear policies, he said, were based on such peaceful uses and adherence to relevant treaties, which included a ban on nuclear weapons. Syria supported strengthening existing safeguard regimes, along with the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle-East. But, the situation was unbalanced as long as Israel maintained a large arsenal of such weapons outside existing regimes. It was a source of destabilization in the area. The international community must exert pressure on Israel to conform to inspection regimes for its nuclear energy facilities.

    He said that regional training sessions, such as the one held recently in Damascus, would serve to increase safety in the field. Strict conditions on the transfer of technologies should be relaxed; developing nations should be assisted in safely using such technologies for the benefit of their people. Radiation was a risk that threatened all, but a sincere international effort could protect people against it and allow them to enjoy the benefits of peaceful nuclear technologies.

    TARIQ S. CHAUDHRY (Pakistan), welcoming the impressive methodology used in the 2001 report, said his country was reassured by the Scientific Committee's conclusion, based on in-depth study involving the analysis of scientific data, that exposure to radiation did not appear to cause hereditary effects in human beings.

    He noted, however, that with increased scientific research in molecular biology, genome sequencing and epidemiology, as well as related technological developments, that issue could be revisited at a later time to help remove some of the remaining uncertainties and increase confidence in the Committee's findings.

    In addition to the report, Pakistan welcomed the Scientific Committee’s work programme, he said. It was heartening that the Committee intended to continue its studies on the radiological health effects of the Chernobyl accident with a view to completing and publishing its findings by 2005. Pakistan particularly appreciated the Committee's close cooperation with scientists from Member States affected by that disaster.

    CARLOS SUAÑEZ (Cuba) said that the Scientific Committee had been providing excellent scientific reports, and Cuba expressed its support for its work. He commended the Scientific Committee’s objective and balanced approach. The valuable current report, on the hereditary risks of radiation exposure, complemented last year’s work. Cooperation between the Scientific Committee and other relevant bodies was crucial and he hoped that it would increase in the future. Only the serious, concerted efforts of the international community in the peaceful use of atomic energy would eliminate the dangers of ionizing radiation.

    JEAN KLENA OUATTARA (Burkina Faso) said his country attached great importance to the Scientific Committee’s key role in the field of research on sources of ionizing radiation. The Committee's authoritative reports and studies were proof of its tireless efforts in carrying out its mandate.

    Regarding Chernobyl, he congratulated the Ukraine on the closure of the facility on 15 December 2000. Regarding the consequences of that disaster on the population and environment, Burkina Faso welcomed the end of nuclear weapons testing and reiterated that nuclear energy should be used solely for purposes of development and social progress.

    He said his country encouraged closer cooperation between the Committee and governments. Burkina Faso welcomed the Scientific Committee’s new work programme, particularly with regard to the study of data on new and artificial radiation sources, as well as the detailed evaluation of emissions in the home and the work place.

    Action on Draft

    The Fourth Committee then took up the draft resolution on the Scientific Committee (document A/C.4/56/ L.5). It approved the text without a vote, as the delegations of Ukraine, Belarus, Suriname and Australia joined the list of co-sponsors.

    Right of Reply

    MOSHE BEN ZIONI (Israel), in exercise of the right of reply, assured the representatives of neighboring countries that a high safety standard was adhered to in its nuclear activities, and its facilities were inspected by objective, impartial agencies. As far as other issues that had been brought up, he suggested they be discussed in the First Committee where they properly belonged.

    Mr. HAGGAG (Egypt) welcomed Israel’s assurances that its nuclear facilities were safe. However, he was still concerned that those facilities were not subject to the inspection of relevant international agencies. He did not want to delve into the subject matter of the First Committee. On the other hand, he suggested that Israel comply with resolutions that had been adopted there and in other forums.

    * *** *