|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-sixth General Assembly
13th Meeting (PM)
United Nations Scientific Committee on Effects of Atomic Radiation Increasingly
Important with Growing Use of Nuclear Energy, Fourth Committee Hears
Speakers Highlight Fukushima Accident, as Japan Says Need to Ensure
Human Safety, Security in Use of Radiation, Atomic Energy Cannot Be Overstated
The United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation, having served the vital function for the past 56 years of providing authoritative scientific review on the sources and effects of ionizing radiation, was ever more important as the use of radiation for peaceful purposes in the world was on the rise, the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) heard today as it met to consider the effects of atomic radiation.
As delegations praised the Scientific Committee for helping to address the harmful effects of atomic radiation, Japan’s representative said the Committee’s work had provided the world with scientific standards for evaluating radiation risk and establishing radiation protection and safety standards.
The importance of ensuring the safety and security of human beings and the environment in the use of radiation and atomic energy could not be overstated, he said. That work was all the more critical in light of the tragic nuclear accident caused by the massive earthquake and tsunami that had occurred earlier this year in Japan. Japan, as a country that had long been committed to the safety of nuclear technology, felt it was imperative to make proactive use of objective scientific knowledge in order to convey the reality to the public and thus free people from unnecessary anxiety.
Many representatives expressed support for Japan in addressing the effects of the Fukushima accident, and also called attention to the twenty‑fifth anniversary of the accident at Chernobyl.
Ukraine’s representative said that that accident had triggered, not only the revision of international nuclear safety standards, but the creation of numerous global instruments to ensure both the highest level of nuclear, waste and radiation safety worldwide, and a system of emergency preparedness and response. In 2011, those had been put to the test by the Fukushima Daiichi accident.
The Philippine’s delegate said that accidents such as those which had occurred in Fukushima and Chernobyl could have tremendous global and regional consequences. He called on States parties to the Treaty on the Non‑Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) to undertake actions contained in the Final Outcome of the 2010 NPT Review Conference, on improving nuclear safety.
He further called for capacity‑building in nuclear detection, nuclear forensics and response, and mitigation at the national and regional levels. He encouraged regional cooperation in information and knowledge sharing, and support for the establishment of the Regulatory Cooperation Forum.
Pointing to other areas of concern in the field of radiation, the representative of Uruguay said that 67 large‑scale nuclear explosions had occurred in the Marshall Islands between 1946 and 1958. In that light, he supported the request of that Government for the Scientific Committee to also consider other aspects of radiation, including the political history of atomic weapons testing in the Marshall Islands and the public health aspects of radiation effects.
Also concerning those tests, the representative of the Marshall Islands said that for decades, the leaders of his country had returned to the United Nations to speak of the continuing impacts of those explosions, including cancer, fear and continued exile from homelands. Those events had historical roots at the Organization, and had a completely unique international character.
Syria’s representative stressed that nuclear technology should be used for peaceful purposes “without discrimination, exclusivity or double standards”. He was concerned about the pressures exercised, under the pretext of verification and NPT measures, against developing nations that were seeking to acquire nuclear technology for development purposes, while a blind eye was turned on countries acquiring nuclear weapons without supervision, international or otherwise. Syria also continued to call the attention of the United Nations to the important issue of nuclear and atomic radiation from the dumping of nuclear waste in developing nations and the high seas, he said.
At the start of the meeting, Wolfgang Weiss, Chair of the Scientific Committee, and Malcolm Crick, Committee Secretary, gave presentations on the work of the Committee.
During the general debate, the representatives of Uruguay, Sudan, China, Iraq, Ukraine, India, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Germany, Belarus, Spain, the Russian Federation, Republic of Korea, Slovakia, Finland and Cuba also spoke.
The Committee will meet again at 10 am, on Monday 24 October to take up consideration of United Nations peacekeeping.
The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) met today to begin 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/66/46), from its fifty‑eighth session, held from 23 to 27 May.
According to the report, exposure to ionizing radiation arises from sources, such as medical diagnostic and therapeutic procedures; nuclear weapons testing; natural background radiation, including from radon; nuclear electricity generation; accidents, such as the one at Chernobyl in 1986; and occupations that increase exposure to artificial or natural sources of radiation. In pursuit of its mandate, the Scientific Committee undertakes broad assessments of the sources of ionizing radiation and its effects on human health and environment. The Committee thoroughly reviews and evaluates global and regional exposures to radiation, and also evaluates evidence of radiation‑induced health effects in exposed groups, including survivors of the atomic bombings in Japan. The Committee also reviews advances in the understanding of the biological mechanisms by which radiation‑induced effects on health or on the environment could occur.
The report states that the Scientific Committee expressed solidarity and sympathy to the Japanese people as it considered the implications of the nuclear power plant accident following the earthquake and tsunami of March 2011 in Japan. The emergency situation was still in progress when the Committee was in session and there was a vast amount of environmental data that had been and would be collected and it would take months to analyze it. The Committee recommends that the compilation of all relevant data and information should start as soon as possible. Stating that international organizations performing activities related to the accident would benefit from the Committee’s report assessing the effects of the Chernobyl accident, that body requested the representative of Japan to act as a coordinator and reference point for the Committee’s Chair and secretariat.
The twenty‑fifth anniversary of the accident at Chernobyl fell on 26 April 2011, the Committee notes. The results of the Committee’s 2008 assessment of health effects due to radiation from the Chernobyl accident had been presented at the conference “Twenty‑five years after the Chernobyl accident: safety for the future” held in Kyiv from 20 to 22 April. The United Nations had arranged for the advance publication of the 2008 assessment so that it would be available before the anniversary. Also, vol. II of the report, with scientific annexes, that the Committee approved in 2008 had now been published in print and electronically. The 2010 report had been published in six languages during the week of the session.
The Committee also states that it would offer a summary of its assessments of the effects of atomic radiation in the Marshall Islands to the Secretary‑General for his report to the General Assembly, in response to paragraph 14 of General Assembly resolution 65/96. In response to paragraph 4 of that resolution, the Committee was encouraged to submit reports related to its present programme of work.
The Committee reports that it had reviewed substantive documents on the ability to attribute health effects to exposure to ionizing radiation, uncertainties in risk estimates for cancer due to exposure to ionizing radiation and biological effects of selected internal emitters. Significant progress had been made on those documents and the Committee envisaged that the documents on the ability to attribute and on uncertainties could be finalized at the next session.
The Committee had also reviewed preliminary documents on radiation exposure from electricity generation and its methodology for estimating human exposures due to discharges. Noting that a review of the existing methodology had been completed, the Committee states that renewable energy sources had never been assessed the way conventional sources had been. The Committee recognizes that data were needed to conduct its assessments of radiation exposures from electricity generation and suggested that the Assembly might refer to that in its resolution.
Regarding its future programme of work, the Committee decided to develop a report specifically on radiation risks and effects on children, evaluate epidemiological studies related to environmental sources of radiation at low dose rates, and review developments on mechanisms of actions at low doses.
The Committee states that because of the nuclear accident in Japan, the issues of public information and data collection deserved higher priority and suggested that the General Assembly might encourage Member States, the organizations of the United Nations system, and other pertinent organizations to provide further relevant data about doses, effects and risks from various sources of radiation. The General Assembly could also encourage the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the World Health Organization (WHO,) and other relevant organizations to collaborate with the Committee secretariat to establish and coordinate periodic collection and exchange of data on radiation exposures.
Regarding administrative issues, the Committee suggested that the General Assembly might request the United Nations Secretariat to continue to streamline the procedures for publishing the Committee’s reports as sales publications. It was necessary to recognize that while maintaining quality, timely publication of the report within the same year as approval was paramount.
Noting with satisfaction that the Committee’s secretariat had filled the additional professional post at the P‑4 level, the Committee suggests that the General Assembly might encourage Member States to consider making voluntary contributions to the general trust fund established for those purposes. The Committee agreed to hold its fifty‑ninth session in Vienna from 21 to 25 May 2012.
WOLFGANG WEISS (Germany) Chair of the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation, gave a presentation on the report of that Committee’s fifty‑eighth session, providing an overview of the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan, the Chernobyl accident “25 years on”, the radiological situation in the Marshall Islands, and other issues on that panel’s agenda. He reiterated that the goals of the Scientific Committee were to assess levels, effects and risks of ionizing radiation, identify emerging issues, and improve knowledge.
With regards to the Fukushima accident, he said the Scientific Committee was willing to support the efforts of Japanese scientists, would recommend prompt compilation of relevant data, and would have the Secretariat review and secure the needed resources. Regarding Chernobyl, he said that thyroid cancers in then‑children had increased, with 6,000 new cases — largely due to contaminated milk from 1986. The twenty‑fifth anniversary of that accident had been marked on 26 April of this year. Turning to the Marshall Islands, he said the Committee had assessed the radiation situation there over many decades. Further he said that publication processes needed to be further streamlined for the Committee, and said that regular data arrangements needed to be fostered with other relevant organizations.
MALCOLM CRICK, Secretary of the Scientific Committee, made a presentation on the effects of atomic radiation in the Marshall Islands. Since 1955, the Scientific Committee had reported regularly on the levels and effects of ionizing radiation, including those associated with nuclear weapon testing in the Marshall Islands. At the request of the Marshall Islands in 1994, an Advisory Group was convened by the IAEA, which included experts of the Scientific Committee and the WHO, to conduct an independent international review of radiological conditions at Bikini Atoll. According to the report of the Advisory Group, one test in 1954 at Bikini gave significant radiation exposures. The IAEA Advisory Group recommended that people not be permanently resettled in Bikini. However remedial actions could be taken to allow permanent resettlement of the atoll.
MARTIN VIDAL (Uruguay) speaking on behalf of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), welcomed the report of the fifty‑eight session of the Scientific Committee, as it illustrated the prime activities of that body and bore witness to the importance of matters relating to radiation. MERCOSUR also commended the decision to examine the repercussions of the Fukushima nuclear plant accident caused by the high magnitude earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
Welcoming the report of the Secretary‑General on the effects of atomic radiation in the Marshall Islands, he stated that 67 large‑scale nuclear explosions had occurred in the islands between 1946 and 1958. MERCOSUR wished to support the request by the Government of the Marshall Islands that the Secretary‑General’s report should not be limited to the scientific effects of atomic radiation but should consider other aspects including the political history of atomic weapons testing in the Marshall Islands, and the public health aspects of radiation effects.
On the subject of membership to the Scientific Committee, he stated that stable ongoing support for that body had not been available and that increased funding to it was a necessary precondition to increased membership.
CARLOS D. SORRETA ( Philippines) said that the nuclear accident in the Fukushima Daiichi facility once again sounded the alarm on the danger of exposure from nuclear radiation. He commended the Scientific Committee for its early and prompt response to look into the radiation impact from the facility. With its world‑renowned experts, that Committee could play a role in supporting the efforts of the Japanese scientists conducting their own assessments of the radiation levels and effects caused by the accident. The contributions of other organizations under the United Nations, such as the IAEA, the Comprehensive Nuclear‑Test‑Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and WHO were also imperative. As shown by Fukushima and Chernobyl a few decades before, a single nuclear accident could have tremendous global or regional consequences. The Philippines had and would continue to do its part in promoting nuclear safety and security.
He called on States parties to the NPT to undertake actions contained in the Final Outcome of the 2010 NPT Review Conference, on how to increase nuclear safety. He also called for capacity‑building in nuclear detection, nuclear forensics and response, and mitigation at the national and regional levels, and encouraged regional cooperation in information and knowledge sharing in the area of nuclear safety, and support for the establishment of the Regulatory Cooperation Forum. The Philippines reaffirmed IAEA’s central role in promoting international cooperation. In that regard, the country supported the IAEA Plan of Action and called for it to continue to provide assistance including through the Technical Cooperation Programme. He saw the need to review the global framework for emergency preparedness and response, and finally, said that nuclear power would remain an important part of the energy mix of several States and would continue to be used long into the foreseeable future. If and when another nuclear disaster occurred, the international community must be fully prepared to minimize the damage and assist the victims.
ABUZIED SHAMSELDIM AHMED MOHAMED ( Sudan) expressed solidarity with the people of Japan after the earthquake that had affected that country last March. He said that every day the international community was becoming more aware of the increasing importance of the work of the Scientific Committee on the effects of atomic radiation, especially with regards to emergencies and natural disasters. Those disasters had increasingly been upon the world in recent years, and he thus welcomed the important work of the Committee to gather and disseminate information.
He welcomed the work of the Scientific Committee, as well as the team that analyzed the standards and indexes. However, he could not really welcome the proposals with regard to the membership of that body, which could lead to the politicization of its very nature. That type of approach could lead to a kind of discrimination, which could contradict the aims and means of the Charter of the United Nations. That would result from the lack of an agreed‑upon mechanism for assessment. Sudan had made progress in recent years in its scientific research, and was now able to meet the needs of animals and people in the country in order to protect their health from atomic radiation. Sudan had cooperated with the IAEA in its acquiring of a nuclear reactor to produce medical and scientific applications of radiation technology, including treating malaria.
ZHAO XINLI ( China) noted that nuclear energy, as a resource that was environmentally friendly, adaptable to climate change and capable of supporting sustainable development and providing a stable, efficient source of electricity, had become a pillar of the energy supply of many developed countries. The Fukushima nuclear accident, however, had focused the world’s attention on safety. In that respect, the international community was responsible for reinforcing nuclear and radiation safety and disposing of radioactive waste. Pointing out that both the demand for nuclear technology and the use of man‑made radiation sources were increasing, he said utmost efforts should be made to maximize the benefit of atomic radiation and minimize its harm. In that context, the task of the Scientific Committee was immense and arduous.
To prevent harmful atomic radiation in a more scientific and effective manner and to avoid unnecessary fear and panic, he called for countries to fulfil their responsibilities with regard to radiation safety. Technological standards for radiation safety should be perfected, and international cooperation in responding to nuclear incidents should be strengthened. Additionally, efforts should be made to promote research and development for safer nuclear technology and to disseminate scientific knowledge. Finally, he recommended that the scope of studies on the effects of atomic radiation be expanded.
Speaking of China’s commitment to the peaceful use of nuclear energy, he said that in the aftermath of the Fukushima accident, the Chinese Government had launched the National Nuclear Contingency Mechanism to monitor and study the situation. Likewise, China had organized a comprehensive safety inspection of all of its nuclear facilities, reinforced safety regulations and conducted safety assessments of nuclear power stations under construction, suspending the review and approval of new projects before adoption of a revised Nuclear Safety Plan. His Government had also expressed a willingness to provide assistance in Japan. China continued to formulate laws, regulations and technical norms concerning atomic radiation, building national capacity in radiation safety.
IHAB HAMED ( Syria) said that his delegation had studied and considered the report of the Scientific Committee and commended its attempts to increase awareness on the effects of ionized radiation. The policy of Syria on nuclear technology was that it should be used for peaceful purposes “without discrimination, exclusivity or double standards”. Syria was concerned about the pressures exercised, under the pretext of verification and NPT measures, against developing nations that were seeking to acquire nuclear technology for development purposes, while a “blind eye was turned” on countries acquiring nuclear weapons without supervision, international or otherwise.
He stated that Syria had been among the first countries to have called for a nuclear‑weapon‑free zone in the Middle East and had adhered to the NPT since 1969. Israel was the only one in the region that had not adhered to the NPT. Moreover, it had acquired nuclear weapons without IAEA supervision. That eroded peace and security in the region and the world and threatened to cause “an environmental and human catastrophe of enormous proportions”.
While Syria expressed solidarity with the Japanese people and hoped that they would overcome the effects of the nuclear reactor accident in Fukushima, he wished to draw the attention of the Committee to the fact that such accidents could happen in any part of the world. It was a matter of great concern, therefore, that the Israeli nuclear facilities were not subjected to a comprehensive safeguard system. Syria had also been calling the attention of the United Nations to the important issue of nuclear and atomic radiation from the dumping of nuclear waste in developing nations and high seas. Israel had dumped nuclear waste in the occupied Syrian Golan amid an international silence, which eroded every confidence in what was being said about the NPT and other international treaties on disarmament.
HAMID AL BAYATI ( Iraq) said that the effects of atomic radiation on public life were many and varied in their dangers. They led to many serious and lethal diseases, and future generations could acquire those genetic effects due to the levels of radiation suffered by humanity and the environment. The Iraqi Government, led by the Ministry of the Environment, had reactivated the Centre for the Prevention of Radiation, which was a regulatory advisory centre considered the executive arm of the Radiation Prevention Authority, which was established by the law to prevent iodized radiation number 99 for the year 1980.
The Authority, he explained, was in charge of drawing up the environmental policies and plans related to that issue and following their implementation. The Authority’s extensive powers also included controlling the movement of radioactive materials and monitoring the environment in terms of radiation, which included the measurement of radiation levels in the materials gathered by the Environment Directorates in the provinces. It was also in charge of building a database to give a picture of radiation contamination in the Iraqi environment, among other things. It also granted certificates for suitability for human consumption of imported goods, including food and non‑food items. Additionally, it issued certificates of clearance on radioactive materials being exported.
Another regulatory authority, the Iraqi Radioactive Source Regulatory Authority, secured the safety of radioactive materials and waste with low levels of radioactivity, aimed at guaranteeing the health and security of citizens during medical and agricultural use of those materials, he said. The authority also prepared a national emergency plan to deal with radioactive incidents and on‑site radioactive emergency plans, and it was exchanging information with related international organizations, including IAEA.
ANDRIY TSYMBALIUK ( Ukraine) said that 26 April had marked the twenty‑fifth anniversary of the catastrophe at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, which had, on that day, dispelled the world’s illusions about the complete safety of the use of peaceful nuclear energy. In commemorating that anniversary, the President of Ukraine had this year organized two important international events in Kyiv, namely a high‑level meeting Kyiv Summit on Safe and Innovative Use of Nuclear Energy and an International Scientific Conference.
He said that the Chernobyl accident had triggered, not only the revision of international nuclear safety standards, but also the creation of numerous international instruments to ensure both the highest level of nuclear, waste and radiation safety worldwide, and the relevant system of emergency preparedness and response. In 2011 those instruments were put to the test in response to the Fukushima Daiichi accident.
He acknowledged the progress made by the Committee on such issues as the assessment of levels of radiation from energy production and the effects on human health and the environment, uncertainty in radiation risk estimation, attributability of health effects from radiation exposure, and the update of methodology for estimating exposures due to discharges from nuclear installations. He noted that the membership of the Scientific Committee had not changed, even as the demand for nuclear energy had risen in recent years, accompanied by some major accidents. While he welcomed the invitation for Ukraine to participate as an observer in the Committee’s work, the limitations associated with that status restricted Ukraine’s ability to contribute substantially to discussions or the decision‑making process. It was a strange fact that the lasting work of the Committee on the Chernobyl file had been done without Ukraine’s full membership.
PRAKASH JAVADEKAR ( India) welcomed the Committee’s proposal to prepare a scientific report on the radiological consequences of the nuclear accident in the Fukushima‑Daiichi power plant, following the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. The Committee also deserved to be complimented for undertaking the development of some very relevant scientific annexes, namely the methodology for estimating radiation exposure due to discharges, biological effects of internal emitters and radiation exposures from different options for electricity generation. As India was emerging as a major user of electricity generated from nuclear power plants, the safety of its citizens was a top priority.
Regarding the Committee’s initiative to prepare a scientific annex on epidemiology related to environmental sources at low doses, he said India was pleased to mention that the Committee would be taking note of the published work from India and China on cancer, as well as biological and genetic effects in high background radiation areas that did not show excessive risk. India would be happy to share its data on the biological and genetic studies in high‑level natural radiation areas of Kerala. He said that while he appreciated the demand for expanding the Committee’s membership, it should not exceed practical limits.
KHALIL HASHMI ( Pakistan) said that while Pakistan had attended the last four sessions of the Scientific Committee as an observer, its experience of operating radiation facilities spanned more than 50 years, ranging from a small radiation source to a full‑fledged medical centre with therapeutic radiation sources. Pakistan’s ongoing studies on assessment of radiation doses to patients in diagnostic and interventional radiology, as well as on naturally occurring radioactive materials, was also important for improving the quality of life and healthcare in the country.
He further said that the work of the Scientific Committee was only going to increase, as applications of radiation expanded in daily life. Upgrading and increasing dissemination of knowledge regarding ionizing radiation and its effects, therefore, were imperative. It was necessary to harness expertise from around the world in order to enrich the Committee’s work.
EMOMALI RAKHMONOV ( Tajikistan) said that his country had inherited numerous mines, mine dumps, and uranium tailing ponds from the Soviet period and their safe management and rehabilitation remained one of the main tasks of his Government. In addition to setting up a legal framework for nuclear and radiation safety, he said, Tajikistan had also established a Nuclear and Radiation Safety Agency under the Academy of Science of the Republic of Tajikistan. His country appreciated the contributions made by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and other organizations in cooperation with the IAEA in terms of providing environment and health monitoring of the people of Tajikistan.
Further, he added, in the light of the concerns regarding nuclear safety caused by the Fukushima accident, it was necessary to improve the nuclear safety regime as well as the role of the IAEA. Such accidents had caused some States to decide not to use, phase out, or reconsider the development of nuclear power. This increased the importance of efficient renewable sources of energy and it was vital that Tajikistan, which possessed huge hydropower potential, should develop a hydro‑energy economic sector in a consistent and complex manner. This would enable Tajikistan, to deal with the energy shortage in the country and the region.
KAZUO KODAMA ( Japan) said that since its establishment in 1955, the Scientific Committee had served the vital function of providing authoritative scientific review on the sources and effects of ionizing radiation. The Committee’s work had provided the world with scientific standards for evaluating radiation risk and establishing radiation protection and safety standard. Japan, as a country that had long been committed to the safety of nuclear technology, had benefitted from the Committee’s work. Moreover, in light of the tragic nuclear accident caused by the massive earthquake and tsunami that occurred earlier this year, Japan recognized all the more the critical role played by the Committee.
He said his country welcomed the international community’s reaffirmed commitment to strengthening nuclear safety at the recent high‑level meting on nuclear safety. The importance of ensuring the safety and security of human beings and the environment in the use of radiation and atomic energy could not be overstated. The use of radiation for medical purposes also played a valuable part in promoting public health. It was essential, therefore, for the Scientific Committee to be able to continue to carry out its task of authoritative study of the effects of radiation, with strengthened capacity.
Also imperative was to make proactive use of the objective scientific knowledge in that area, in order to convey the reality to the public and thus free people from unnecessary anxiety. That would also assist in preventing the spread of harmful and groundless rumours about radiation.
CALEB CHRISTOPHER ( Marshall Islands) said that 57 years ago, the United Nations had held in its trust the Marshallese people, at the dawn of the cold war. Acting with the assurances of protection, 67 large‑scale nuclear explosions were detonated in the Marshall Islands, under the watch and through the actions of the United Nations and its administering Authority, the United States. It was important to acknowledge the many subsequent actions that had been undertaken to address those events, but also that significant challenges, issues and questions remained.
For decades, he said, leaders of the Marshall Islands have returned to the United Nations to speak of continuing impacts — cancer, fear and continued exile from homelands — and of a science where the goalposts were moving. Those events had historical roots at the United Nations — where, during the period of testing, Marshallese leaders had put forward petitions to halt the testing, and during which the United Nations had responded with two United Nations Trusteeship resolutions, in 1954 and 1956. Those events had a completely unique international character.
He said his country welcomed the support of the Pacific Island Forum, including, in 2010, the joint statement of the Pacific Islands Forum leaders and the United Nations Secretary‑General, in which cooperation between the United Nations and Pacific States lent support to addressing the ongoing impacts of nuclear testing in the Pacific. The Marshall Islands also welcomed the Secretary‑General’s initiative to make nuclear safety a top priority.
Last year, the General Assembly had asked the Secretary‑General to report on the effects of atomic radiation in the Marshall Islands. Appropriate engagement at the United Nations had the potential for his country, with key bilateral partners and the United Nations, to take a very positive step forward in understanding the past, bringing closure to that sad chapter in history, and to understand how the international community could assist in addressing future remediation and other challenges. The involvement of the United Nations was key. He stressed the importance of bringing attention to the body of scientific work that had been done in assessing the consequences of nuclear testing in the Marshall Islands.
MIGUEL BERGER ( Germany) said the Scientific Committee did very important work, which continued to play a crucial role in international understanding of the effects of atomic radiation on human beings and the environment. She said the accident at Fukushima highlighted the importance of the Committee’s work, and it had reacted to the challenges by supporting Japanese efforts to address the effects of that accident.
He reiterated Germany’s solidarity and sympathy with the peoples and the Government of Japan, and noted that the Committee to analyse the Chernobyl accident had helped significantly the understanding of the accidental releases of radionuclides.
He said he welcomed the Scientific Committee’s plan to focus its future work also on radiation risks, as well as the effects on children. He said Germany remained committed to the important work of that Committee, which included improving knowledge about the effects of atomic radiation, sharing scientific results, and using those results to develop more effective technologies to deal with the effects of atomic radiation. This was increasingly critical as the use of radiation for peaceful purposes continued to rise.
DENIS ZDOROV ( Belarus) said the timelines of the publication of the reports had not been conducive to stimulating an active process of negotiation on the draft resolutions and he hoped that delegations would have sufficient time to consider them. The importance of the Scientific Committee’s work for the international community was extremely clear today, in particular, in organizing the scientific assessment of the aftermath of the nuclear power plant accident in Japan.
He said the Committee must enhance its future effectiveness by taking on six new members. Broadening the membership to 27 members would be a valuable step for the Committee. Since 2008, Belarus had been able to take part in the Scientific Committee as an observer and was interested in continuing work as a full‑fledged member. Scientists in Belarus, he added, had contributed actively to the work of the Committee.
He concluded that the process of adding six candidates to the Committee had been unnecessarily drawn out, and Belarus looked forward to a decision in this session.
JAVIER SANABRIA VALDERRAMA ( Spain) said the work and evaluations conducted by the Scientific Committee considering the effects of radiation on human health and on the environment were very important. The Committee was essential in providing the international community with information on the sources and effects of ionizing rays. The fifty-ninth session of the Scientific Committee had occurred just a few short weeks after the accident in Japan, and 25 years after the Chernobyl catastrophe. He offered Spain’s “brotherly support” for all the victims in Japan, and had awarded the Prince of Asturias Prize to Japanese society as a whole for its response. He emphasized the importance of the Committee’s work in the Marshall Islands as well.
He said the issue of expanding the Committee by six more members had been pending for the last five “very long” years. Further extending the situation would be detrimental to the Committee, and to its scientific nature. He shared the view expressed by the Chair of the Committee that the issue needed to be resolved. The six observer countries had been rendering important services, and that work should be acknowledged. Spain was ready to give positive consideration to any proposal that found a satisfactory solution to the budgetary question which prevented the expansion of membership. The six observer countries should be invited to be members of the Committee, as expressed in the proposal from Vienna and as articulated by Germany. What had been considered appropriate in Vienna should be ratified by consensus in New York as well.
NIKITA ZHUKOV ( Russian Federation) stated that his country, which together with Ukraine and Belarus, had suffered through the Chernobyl accident, attached great importance to the question of nuclear safety. The accident at Fukushima had brought to light the need to strengthen the international legislative framework on nuclear security.
He said that Russia welcomed the important work of the Scientific Committee. His country had taken an active part in the Committee since its inception and was pleased that its major scientific reports were actively used by professionals. Russia believed that the Committee must continue to pay great attention to analyzing the radiological effects of nuclear accidents.
Improving the quality of the Committee’s work could be achieved by including countries whose experience and expertise would be valuable to the Committee’s work, he said. In that, all six countries that had applied for membership had fulfilled the criteria necessary to become members of the Committee.
SHIN DONGA-IK (Republic of Korea) said that, as the fifth largest county in nuclear power generation, the Republic of Korea had much to offer in terms of its expertise. In accordance with relevant policies, his country continued to utilize nuclear energy and hoped to share with the international community its accumulated experience with the construction and use of nuclear power plants. In that light, the Republic of Korea had sought membership with the Committee.
He said his delegation recognized the concerns by some countries that expansion of the membership would increase the budget. However, the presence of the observer States had not increased the budget, and he did not see that allowing them to become members would incur extra costs. He greatly appreciated the efforts of the secretariat and the Chair in undertaking their numerous tasks with limited financial and human resources, and he looked forward to settling the issue of the expansion of the membership so the Committee could focus its efforts exclusively on the effects of atomic radiation.
LENKA MIHÁLIKOVÁ ( Slovakia) welcomed the active engagement of the Scientific Committee in assessment of the impact on health and the environment from the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power reactors and publishing the updated information on its website. She conveyed Slovakia’s sympathy for the people of Japan affected by that accident. The work of the Scientific Committee would help to evaluate further risks for that population. It was a well-known fact that children were more affected by radiation than adults. Slovakia, therefore, welcomed the Committee’s decision to concentrate in the near future on assessment of radiation effects and risks specifically for children.
She said that understanding effects of low dosage exposure would help formulate international standards and protect the public and professionals. That would contribute to informed decisions and raising awareness of the risks and, in some cases, being able to eliminate them. Slovakia welcomed a scientific report that summarized low-dose radiation effects on health, including a synthesis of the Committee’s detailed findings on the mechanisms of radiation actions at low doses.
Slovak experts had been participating in the work of the Scientific Committee since its establishment, and the country had then been appointed to fill the seat vacated by the former Czechoslovakia, she said. That experience could serve as an example of how to approach the question of Committee membership. The question was taking up too much energy, and her country was ready to support any cost-neutral decision that would help to achieve wide consensus on the issue.
JYRKI NISSILÄ ( Finland) said that, in order to ensure the continuation of the important work of the Scientific Committee, it was vital that sufficient resources were provided. Finland had contributed to the work of the Committee as an observer for many years, and now felt that its full membership was “well deserved”. It would be wise and useful to close that discussion this year, since the Committee would face new challenges in the future — including the consequences of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan. To prolong the discussion about observers and their possible membership would therefore be counterproductive, and a decision should be made this year.
Finland, as a full member, would contribute more to the work of the Committee that ever before, the delegate said. The country had proven records of providing national input to the surveys conducted by the Scientific Committee, and had informed it of electronic databases that it had developed. Finland had also contributed to the Committee’s reports on internal exposure to radioactive substances, as well as to the important task of reviewing the consequences of the nuclear accident following the Japan earthquake. Regarding the financial implications of the possible new members, Finland was ready to consider new possibilities to support the Committee.
OSCAR LEON GONZALEZ ( Cuba) congratulated the Committee on the fine work it had been doing and the constant flow of information it provided to Member States. Peace and security at the international level remained threatened by the existence of more than 23,000 nuclear warheads, half of them ready to be used immediately. Using only a small proportion of that arsenal would bring about a nuclear winter. Cuba believed that the use of nuclear weapons was an illegal act that was totally immoral and unjustifiable under any circumstances or any security doctrine. The only guarantee that nuclear weapons would not be used would be to eliminate them.
He confirmed the importance of the Committee, as a source of specialist information that was balanced and objective. It was important to maintain and strengthen the links of collaboration between Committee members and various United Nations organizations such as WHO, IAEA, and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Welcoming the report of the Secretary-General on the Marshall Islands, he said that that was an extremely important matter and consideration must be given to the concerns raised by its representative.
Cuba, despite its limited resources, had offered “significant cooperation to the brother nation of Ukraine” in order to mitigate the consequences of the Chernobyl accident, he said. Since 1990, Cuba had engaged in a programme of rehabilitation of victims of the nuclear accident. To date, in Cuba, 25,392 Ukrainian patients and patients from other countries had been cared for. The Committee had referred to Cuban studies generated through that programme, in its publications, and had shown interest in further information.
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