FOURTH COMMITTEE BEGINS REVIEW OF EFFECTS OF ATOMIC RADIATION

13 October 2003
GA/SPD/263

FOURTH COMMITTEE BEGINS REVIEW OF EFFECTS OF ATOMIC RADIATION

13/10/2003
Press ReleaseGA/SPD/263

Fifty-eighth General Assembly

Fourth Committee

6th Meeting (AM)

FOURTH COMMITTEE BEGINS REVIEW OF EFFECTS OF ATOMIC RADIATION

Kazakhstan Delegate Warns of Negative Impact of Testing,

Joins Others in Supporting Work of UN Scientific Committee on Issue

The problems triggered by the negative effects of atomic radiation were a matter of life and death, the representative of Kazakhstan told the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) this morning, as it began its consideration of the effects of atomic radiation.

Referring to the Semipalatinsk nuclear testing ground in his country, he said that the testing at that facility had seriously impacted the health of the population of a vast region of Kazakhstan, affecting newborns, crop areas and water resources.

Reaffirming their support of the work of the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR), the representatives of Ukraine, Lebanon and Uruguay expressed hope that a favourable outcome to that body’s budgetary planning process for the 2004-2005 biennium would allow for the continuation of its new programme of work.  In that context, they welcomed the Scientific Committee’s decision to proceed with its work and to hold its fifty-second session in Vienna from 26 to 30 April 2004.

The representative of Brazil introduced the Scientific Committee’s report.

The Fourth Committee will meet again tomorrow, 14 October, at 10 a.m. to continue its consideration of atomic radiation and to take action on texts relating to decolonization.

Background

The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) met this morning to begin its debate on the effects of atomic radiation.

Effects of Atomic Radiation

The Committee had before it the report of the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (document A/58/46).  Established in 1955, the Scientific Committee is mandated to collect, assemble and evaluate information on the levels of ionizing radiation and radionuclides from all sources and to study their possible effects on humans and the environment.

In the report, the Scientific Committee considered new information relevant to assessing sources of radiation, the exposures that those sources give rise to and the effects that result.

The report focuses on a review of documents prepared by the Secretariat on subjects that the Scientific Committee had identified as the most important topics for further study, including exposures of workers and the public from various sources of radiation; sources-to-effects assessment for radon in homes and workplaces; radioecology; epigenetic effects of exposure to ionizing radiation; health effects due to radiation from the Chernobyl accident (for which the Committee has established official collaboration with scientists in Belarus, the Russian Federation and Ukraine); evaluation of new epidemiological studies of radiation and cancer; epidemiological evaluation and dose response of diseases other than cancer that might be related to radiation exposure; medical radiation exposures.

In addition, documents on the health effects of radiation and the sources of ionizing radiation exposure were reviewed in order to guide development of the other documents and to disseminate the summarized findings of the Committee to a wider audience.

Inadequate funding, however, has delayed progress on the Scientific Committee's main programme of work, the report says.  The fifty-first session of the Scientific Committee was rescheduled from its original date of 3 to 7 May 2002 to 27 to 31 January because support funds in the budget were inadequate to allow the Committee to meet each year and advance its developing documents.  The fifty-first session was made possible by combining funds of the 2002-2003 budget.

Knowing that the programme initiated at the fifty-first session of the Committee could not survive the hiatus of another cancellation of an annual meeting, it was deemed imperative that a solution to the Committee’s budgetary crisis be found.  The General Assembly, in its resolution 57/115 of 11 December 2002, urged the United Nations Environment Programme to review and strengthen the present funding of the Scientific Committee and emphasized the need for the Committee to hold regular sessions on an annual basis so that its report can reflect the latest developments and findings in the field of ionizing radiation and provide updated information for dissemination among all States.

The Scientific Committee has decided to proceed with its work in the expectation that the expressions of support will be appropriately reflected in the budget for the 2004-2005 biennium and scheduled its fifty-second session in Vienna from 26 to 30 April 2004.

Statements

SIDNEY LEON ROMEIRO (Brazil), introducing the report, said that since its inception the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation had been carrying out important research work in the field of radiation exposure, while assuming an independent position in its conclusions and recommendations.  He also noted that the Committee’s work had assisted the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the General Assembly in making recommendations for sustainable development, international cooperation on health issues and, to a lesser extent, for peace and security.

SUSANA RIVERO (Uruguay), speaking on behalf of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR) and its associated States, said the group attached great importance to the fact that the international community was able to evaluate the consequences of radiation on affected populations.

She highlighted the relevance of the tasks of the United Nations Scientific Committee for the study of the effect of atomic radiation in the evaluation of the levels and associated risks of the exposure to natural sources of radiation and noted that some of MERCOSUR’s countries were collaborating directly with that Committee.

She welcomed the Committee’s new programme of work, which involved research in the field of radioecology, the evaluation of radon in homes and workplaces, the epigenetic effects of the exposure to ionizing radiation and cancer, and the exposure to radiation within the medical context.

She also reaffirmed the commitment of MERCOSUR member States and its associated States to the use of nuclear energy exclusively for peaceful purposes.

IBRAHIM ASSAF (Lebanon) regretted that the Scientific Committee had not been able to hold its regular meeting due to financial problems.  He reiterated his support for the Committee and requested that it be provided with the necessary financial resources.  In the report, the Committee distinguished between natural and artificial sources of atomic radiation.  He said that while man could not stop the natural sources of radiation, it could, for example, take measures to fill the hole in the ozone.  Artificial sources of radiation included those used for scientific and medical purposes.  Atomic radiation caused by nuclear facilities could prove disastrous, as was the case with the 1986 Chernobyl accident. 

Military use of atomic energy included the production and testing of weapons of mass destruction, he said.  Such weapons must be eliminated, given their destructive effects on human civilization.  In speaking of the destructive effects of atomic radiation throughout the world, he also thought of those dangers in the Middle East.  Israel was establishing nuclear facilities, both civilian and military, along its borders with Arab States, thus threatening the environment and lives in those countries.  Israel wrongly claimed that radiation sources were coming from neighbouring States.  To ensure maximum security of the States in the region, Lebanon was asking Israel to place its nuclear installations under IAEA safeguards.

YURIY VITRENKO (Ukraine), welcomed the report of the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) and said his country hoped that a favourable outcome of the budgetary planning process for the biennium 2004-2005 would allow the continuation of the new programme of work of the Scientific Committee.

He commended the identification of the health effects of the Chernobyl catastrophe by the Committee as a priority topic for further studies and reaffirmed Ukraine’s support of the Committee’s work.

Ukraine, he said, would welcome further cooperation with the Committee in the creation of a philosophy of radiological protection, the study of problems ensuing from the reprocessing and disposal of radioactive waste from nuclear-power technologies and the development of a radiological protection strategy.

He said his country was in a position to make valuable contributions to the work of the Committee and reiterated Ukraine’s intention to join UNSCEAR.

YERZHAN KH. KAZYKHANOV (Kazakhstan) said that because of his country’s 50 years of nuclear testing at the Semipalatinsk nuclear testing ground, the problems triggered by the negative effects of atomic radiation were a matter of life and death.  As a result, the rehabilitation of environmental disaster areas, especially those affected by radioactive contamination, should continue to be a top priority for the international community.

Kazakhstan, he noted, had been consistently calling for a steady and phased nuclear disarmament process and universal adherence to international instruments in this area.

On the issue of the Semipalatinsk nuclear testing ground, he said that the testing had seriously affected the health of the population of a vast region of Kazakhstan:  many babies were still being born with abnormalities; radioactive contamination had affected extensive crop areas and water resources and had significantly curtailed economic activity in the vicinity of the testing ground.

He welcomed the actions taken by the United Nations and its specialized agencies aimed at the economic, social and humanitarian rehabilitation of the Semipalatinsk region but said many of those actions were not adequate.  He also called on the donor community to provide financial and technical assistance that would enable his country to implement long-term programmes and projects for the rehabilitation of the region.

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For information media. Not an official record.