Secretary-General Says Chernobyl Anniversary Time for Global Action to Ensure Nuclear Power Plants ‘Sources of Peaceful Energy — Not Potential Catastrophe’

26 April 2011

Secretary-General Says Chernobyl Anniversary Time for Global Action to Ensure Nuclear Power Plants ‘Sources of Peaceful Energy — Not Potential Catastrophe’

26 April 2011
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Secretary-General Says Chernobyl Anniversary Time for Global Action to Ensure

Nuclear Power Plants ‘Sources of Peaceful Energy — Not Potential Catastrophe’

Following are Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks to the General Assembly’s special commemorative meeting in observance of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster, in New York, 26 April:

It is one thing to read about Chernobyl, another to see it for yourself.

Anyone visiting that infamous site, as I did last week, will be profoundly moved:

The giant reactor — encased in concrete, yet still deadly.

The empty town and nearby villages — houses in ruin, the land contaminated.

Chernobyl displaced hundreds of thousands of people and affected millions more.

It cast a radioactive cloud across Europe and a shadow around the world.

Yet there is a larger and more encouraging story, a story of international solidarity.  Chernobyl was not a problem for Ukraine, Belarus or Russia alone.  Chernobyl was our problem — a shared challenge for the world.

That is why the United Nations has done everything possible to promote recovery.  We have an Action Plan on Chernobyl.  We are supporting the Decade of Recovery and Sustainable Development.

Echoing the past, echoing Chernobyl, events at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant remind us once again of the dangers of nuclear accidents.

Nuclear accidents respect no borders.  They threaten human health and the environment.  They disrupt the economy and devastate communities.  They are global in effect.

This twenty-fifth anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster is a time for reflection — a time for robust global debate.

Nuclear power will likely continue to be an important resource for many nations and can be a part of a low-carbon-emission energy mix in our efforts to address climate change.

But it has to become credibly safe, and globally so.

In this regard, I pay tribute to President Victor Yanukovych of Ukraine for his vision in organizing the Kyiv Summit on Safe and Innovative Use of Nuclear Energy last week, long before issues of nuclear safety made it back to the world's front pages. 

At that Summit, I put forward a five-point strategy for a safer nuclear future.

I called for a top-to-bottom review of current safety standards at the national and international levels.

I advocated strengthening the International Atomic Energy Agency’s {IAEA} work on nuclear safety.  I support the holding of an IAEA ministerial meeting on nuclear safety in June.

I raised the need to focus on the nexus between nuclear safety and natural disasters.

I said we need a new cost-benefit analysis of nuclear energy, and I called for building a stronger connection between nuclear safety and nuclear security.

It is time to face the facts.  Issues of nuclear power and safety are not purely matters of national policy; they are a matter of global public interest.

That is why, in September, I will convene a meeting of world leaders to take a hard look at all these issues.  It is time to undertake a serious global debate on this issue at the level of global leaders.

We must treat nuclear safety as seriously as we treat nuclear weapons.

The images of Chernobyl will stay with me a long time.

They have taken their place alongside others:

The desolation of Kazakhstan’s former nuclear test site at Semipalatinsk, which I visited one year ago.

The bravery and resilience of the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki — the Hibakusha — who I met in Japan last summer.

The world is learning from these experiences.

In Chernobyl, I also saw signs of hope.

The soil is still contaminated, but forestry projects are reviving the land.  People are starting to return in small numbers.  Last week, countries pledged 550 million euros to continue work on a new shelter for the damaged reactor.

That shield is expected to last another 100 years.

What we need now is a shield to protect our wider world.

A shield forged at the United Nations, with your help and support.

A shield that will ensure that nuclear power plants are sources of peaceful energy — not potential catastrophe.

Twenty-five years ago, people chanted:  “No more Chernobyls.”

Together, let us say that again today, and act.

Thank you very much.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.