Press Releases

    GA/SPD/330
    31 October 2005

    Fourth Committee Hails Work of UN Scientific Committee on Effects of Atomic Radiation, Calls for Adequate Resources to Fund Its Work

    NEW YORK, 28 October (UN Headquarters) -- Governments and organizations throughout the world relied on the estimates of the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation as the scientific basis for evaluating radiation risks, establishing radiation protection and safety standards, and regulating radiation sources, the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) was informed this morning.

    Introducing the Scientific Committee's report, the representative of Japan, who chaired that body's fifty-third session, said that since its establishment 50 years ago, the Committee had served the vital function of providing authoritative scientific review of the sources and effects of ionizing radiation.  Although its original mandate was to assess and report levels and effects of exposure to ionizing radiation, the Committee's role had been adapted to address new challenges arising from radiation exposure, such as diseases other than cancer, effects on the immunological system and effects on non-human biota.

    Noting that next year would mark the twentieth year since the Chernobyl accident, he welcomed the Scientific Committee's continuous contribution in enabling a better understanding of the radiation health effects of that catastrophe.  Also, he was concerned that the present level of funding for the Committee's work was inadequate, leading to diminished effectiveness at a time when authoritative reviews of the effects of radiation were likely to take on an increasing importance.  He also introduced a draft resolution on the issue.

    Speakers today hailed the quality of the Scientific Committee's reports, which served as a basis for measures by Governments to protect their populations against the dangers of atomic radiation, and welcomed the continuing work of the Committee on the health effects of the Chernobyl accident.  They called on the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to continue to provide the Committee with the necessary resources to continue its important work.  Speakers also drew attention to the dangers of having nuclear waste deposited in some developing countries or in the oceans, and stressed that solutions to problems posed by atomic radiation could only be addressed through international cooperation.

    In the context of the twentieth anniversary of the Chernobyl catastrophe next year, the representative of Ukraine said it was now important to analyse the effectiveness of measures taken during the period following the tragedy, to review the work accomplished over the last two decades, and to outline an action plan for the future.

    She announced that Ukraine would hold an international conference in April 2006, entitled "Twenty Years After Chernobyl:  Future Outlook".  The event would promote the effective implementation of up-to-date international expertise on the issues of medical and biological consequences of radiological accidents, the improvement of response effectiveness to radiological accidents, and nuclear power plant decommissioning, among others.

    The representative of Myanmar said that, faced with limited resources in fossil fuels, the international community had to turn to nuclear power as an alternative source of energy.  With the growing use of nuclear power came the increased risk of exposure to atomic radiation through leakage and nuclear accidents.  The danger of atomic radiation remained an important issue not only to countries that had suffered from the results of nuclear tests or accidents, but also to those exposed to the dangers stemming from other sources of radiation, such as nuclear electricity generation and exposure to man-made or naturally occurring sources.  It was imperative that proper safety standards for protection from radiation be installed.

    Syria's representative said his country had continuously called for the need to get rid of all arsenals of weapons of mass destruction, and had called for a zone free of such weapons in the Middle East.  Because of the absence of international supervision over Israeli nuclear installations, radiation leaks from those installations posed a danger to the region and the international community.  Therefore, Israeli installations must be placed under the inspection of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

    The representatives of Cuba, United Kingdom (on behalf of the European Union) and Uruguay (on behalf of the Southern Common Market) also addressed the Committee, as did the Secretary of the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation.

    The Fourth Committee will meet again at 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, 1 November, to take action on texts regarding assistance in mine action and effects of atomic radiation.  It will also address the revitalization of the work of the General Assembly, and take up the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

    Background

    As the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) began its consideration of the effects of atomic radiation, it had before it the report of the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (document A/60/46), covering that body's fifty-third session, held in Vienna from 26 to 30 September.  That session continued the previous session's development of new documents on the sources and effects of ionizing radiation and its effects on the health of humans and the environment.

    The report notes that the Committee's deliberations had focused on reviewing advanced draft documents on topics that included exposures of workers and the public to various sources of radiation; re-evaluation of risks from radon in homes and workplaces; review of the risks and effects of radiation on non-human biota; analysis of health effects due to radiation from the Chernobyl accident; evaluation of new epidemiological studies of radiation and cancer; and review of evidence for diseases other than cancer that might be related to radiation exposure.

    According to the report, the need for the restoration of an operating budget adequate to allow the Committee to fulfil its mandate remained of concern.  While increased funds had been provided for the essential task of recruiting consultants, only partial restitution had occurred.  The Committee expressed its disappointment with the rejection of an additional professional post necessary to avoid the vulnerabilities that had of late hampered implementation of the approved programme of work.  Diminished effectiveness was of concern at the current time, owing to the anticipated public interest in the twentieth anniversary of the Chernobyl accident and the forthcoming revision of the Basic Safety Standards for Protection against Ionizing Radiation.

    The Committee also called on all Member States, specialized agencies of the United Nations system and other scientific international and national bodies to make available relevant information for its reviews.  The Committee intended to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of its first session ( 14 March 1956), raise awareness of its activities outside the traditional scientific community, and make available relevant material on its achievements.

    [The United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) was established by the General Assembly in 1955, with the mandate to assess and report levels of exposure to ionizing radiation and their effects.  According to its website, Governments and organizations throughout the world rely on the Committee's estimates as the scientific basis for evaluating radiation risk, establishing radiation protection and safety standards, and regulating radiation sources.  The Committee comprises scientists from 21 Member States and consults with scientists throughout the world in establishing its databases.  More information about the Committee can be found on www.unscear.com .]

    Introduction of Report

    MALCOLM CRICK, Secretary of the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR), said that before taking up his current function, he had been a keen user of that body's substantive scientific reports for over two decades.  The reports were held in high esteem among the scientific community.

    Regarding the Committee's budgetary problems, he said that the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) was making arrangements to address those issues.  Drawing attention to the fact that 26 April 2006 would be the twentieth anniversary of Chernobyl, he said the Scientific Committee played an important role in providing a scientific basis for better understanding the impact radiation had on health.

    TAKEOMI YAMAMOTO ( Japan), Chair of the fifty-third session of the Scientific Committee, introduced the Committee's report, saying that, since its establishment 50 years ago, the Committee had served the vital function of providing authoritative scientific review of the sources and effects of ionizing radiation.  Although its original mandate was to assess and report levels and effects of exposure to ionizing radiation, the role of the Committee had been adapted to address new challenges arising from radiation exposure, such as diseases other than cancer, effects on the immunological system and effects on non-human biota.  As a result, Governments and organizations throughout the world now relied on the Committee's estimates as the scientific basis for evaluating radiation risks, establishing radiation protection and safety standards and regulating radiation sources.

    He said next year would mark the twentieth year since the Chernobyl accident.  In that connection, he welcomed the Scientific Committee's continuous contribution in providing the scientific background to gain a better understanding of the radiation health effects of that accident.  He said there had been some concern that the present level of funding for the Committee's work was inadequate, leading to diminished effectiveness at a time when authoritative reviews of the effects of radiation were likely to take on an increasing importance.

    Introducing the draft resolution on the issue, he said the text would have the Assembly request the Scientific Committee to continue to review the important issues in the field of ionizing radiation.  The Assembly would also request the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to continue providing support for the effective conduct of the work of the Committee, and to review and take steps to ensure the strengthening of the present funding.  He hoped that the draft would be adopted by consensus.

    He informed the Fourth Committee that the draft was co-sponsored by Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Belarus, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, China, Cuba, Czech Republic, Ecuador, Finland, France, Greece, Guatemala, Iceland, India, Ireland, Japan, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Mexico, Monaco, Nicaragua, Peru, Poland, Russian Federation, Singapore, Slovakia, Sweden, Thailand and United Kingdom.

    Statements

    ABEL LA ROSA DOMINGUEZ ( Cuba) reaffirmed his country's strong opposition to the use of nuclear energy for "war-like" purposes.  He said that in March, Cuba and Ukraine had commemorated the fifteenth anniversary of the Tarara Humanitarian Programme, which had made possible the healing and rehabilitation of young victims of the Chernobyl accident.  He expressed his country's satisfaction regarding its modest assistance to relieve the consequences of that tragic accident.  As was well known, Cuba faced a cruel and illegal blockade imposed by the United States Government, which had had a negative impact on the health sector, and particularly on that Programme.

    Nevertheless, he said, medical care based on the principles of solidarity and unselfishness continued to be provided to the victims of Chernobyl.  So far, 18,153 children and 3,400 adults had been treated.  Moreover, in 1998, the city of Evpatoria ( Ukraine) had witnessed the opening of a sanatorium devoted to the rehabilitation of victims of the Chernobyl accident.  A small brigade of Cuban doctors had been working there since it opened.  Over 10,000 people had been treated by that programme, assisted by Cuban specialists.

    He underlined the importance of continuing to strengthen cooperation among the Scientific Committee and the different agencies and institutions of the United Nations system, including the World Health Organization (WHO), the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the UNEP.  Such collaboration should imply greater benefits for mankind, through the implementation of technological developments in different spheres of life, especially regarding health and environmental protection.  Finally, he stressed that the elimination of the potential dangers resulting from ionizing radiation could only be achieved through comprehensive and serious cooperation on the peaceful uses of atomic energy.

    HAYDAR ALI AHMAD ( Syria) commended the Scientific Committee's work and its independent role, and called on the UNEP to continue to give support to the Committee.  He supported the call on all States, United Nations agencies and international scientific institutions to make available to the Scientific Committee all relevant information for the research it undertook.

    He said his country had continuously called for getting rid of all arsenals of weapons of mass destruction, in particular of nuclear arsenals and had called for a zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East.  In 2003, it had submitted, on behalf of the League of Arab States, a resolution to the Security Council on ridding the Middle East region of all weapons of mass destruction within the framework of international supervision under the auspices of the United Nations.  Because of the absence of international supervision over Israeli nuclear installations, radiation leaks from those installations posed a danger to the region and the international community.  Israeli installations must, therefore, be placed under the inspection of the IAEA.

    He also drew attention to the need to confront the danger of radiation from nuclear waste deposited in some developing countries and in the oceans.  Those actions violated international law.  The negative impact of atomic radiation was an evil threatening all.  Solutions could only be reached through international cooperation, he said.

    YIN YIN MYINT ( Myanmar) said that faced with limited resources in fossil fuels, the international community had to turn to nuclear power as an alternative source of energy.  With the growing use of nuclear power came the increased risk of exposure to atomic radiation through leakage and nuclear accidents.  Her delegation was also troubled by the dangers posed by the proliferation of nuclear weapons and the possibility of those weapons falling into the hands of terrorists.  The danger of atomic radiation remained an important issue not only to countries that had suffered from the results of nuclear tests or accidents, but also to those exposed to the dangers stemming from other sources of radiation, such as nuclear electricity generation and exposure to man-made or naturally-occurring sources.  It was imperative that proper safety standards for protection from radiation be installed.

    Myanmar was one of the countries that had been exercising its legitimate right to the peaceful use of atomic energy for development purposes, in cooperation with the IAEA, she said.  Her country was highly appreciative of the sustained assistance provided in that regard by the Agency, particularly in the fields of medicine, agriculture, human resources development, radiotherapy and nuclear engineering and technology.  With the help of the IAEA, Myanmar had embarked on a programme to promote and develop nuclear applications.  Her Government was aware of the need for adequate radiation protection and waste safety infrastructure, and had nearly completed regulations for the safe use of radiation and atomic energy.  To that end, the IAEA had assisted her country through the Inter-regional Model Project on Radiation Protection and Waste Safety Infrastructure.

    SIMON WILLIAMS ( United Kingdom), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said the Scientific Committee remained the principal international body in its field.  The quality of the Committee's work was such that the drafting of national and international standards used the Committee's reports as a basis for protecting populations against the effects of ionizing radiation.  He fully supported the 2005 work programme of the Committee, particularly its continuing work on the health effects of the Chernobyl accident and the effects of radiation at low doses.

    He also welcomed the exchange of information and cooperation between the Committee and relevant international organizations such as the IAEA, the WHO, the International Commission on Radiation Units and Measurements, the International Commission on Radiological Protections, the International Union of Radioecology and the Nuclear Energy Agency.  He reiterated the Union's full support for the Scientific Committee, which, on the basis of its scientific authority, provided the international community with essential and independent information towards evaluation of the levels and effects of exposure to atomic radiation.

    OLHA KAVUN ( Ukraine), while praising the work of the Scientific Committee during its fifty-third session, expressed her delegation's concern at the inadequate restoration of its operating budget, which affected its ability to fulfil its mandate.  She stressed the importance of taking the necessary measures so that the Committee could efficiently discharge the vital responsibilities and mandate entrusted to it by the General Assembly.

    Next year would be the twentieth anniversary of the Chernobyl catastrophe, she continued.  Her delegation believed that, 20 years after the accident, it was now important to analyse the effectiveness of measures taken during the period following the tragedy, to review the work accomplished over the last two decades, and to outline an action plan for the future.  In April 2006, the Government of Ukraine would hold an international conference, entitled "Twenty Years After Chernobyl:  Future Outlook".  The conference would promote the effective implementation of up-to-date international expertise on the issues of medical and biological consequences of radiological accidents, the improvement of response effectiveness to radiological accidents, and nuclear power plant decommissioning, among others.

    Given the specific sphere of competence of the Scientific Committee, her delegation remained convinced that the effectiveness of the Committee's work would be maximized by inviting countries that possessed special expertise in the field of atomic radiation to contribute to its activities as members.   Ukraine had a significant scientific capacity in the sphere of radiological research, and hoped that that expertise would be used by the Scientific Committee in implementing its tasks as entrusted by the General Assembly.

    ENRIQUE LOEDEL (Uruguay), speaking on behalf of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), said the subregion ascribed great importance to the evaluation of the consequences of atomic radiation on any population.  Expressing concerns about the contamination of radiation on the environment, he underscored the importance of the work of the Scientific Committee on the risks of radiation and its impact on the environment.  During the last half century, the Committee had made significant contributions towards the safety of the environment.

    Recognizing the Committee's claim to scientific excellence and expressing support for its new programme of work, he welcomed that fact that, at the Committee's fiftieth anniversary in March 2006, information on its work would be disseminated beyond the circle of the scientific community.  In conclusion, he said that international agreements must guarantee the peaceful use of nuclear material, as well as the freedom of exchange of information and research on nuclear technologies.

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